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cii Ris'iM A N i)r)C''rR I \ 







March i, 1862. 

I, William Binny Webster, late Surgeon in the H.E.I.C.S., presently residing in 
Edinburgh, — Considering that I feel deeply interested in the success of the Free Church 
College, Edinburgh, and am desirous of advancing the Theological Literature of Scot- 
land, and for this end to establish a Lectureship similar to those of a like kind con- 
nected with the Church of England and the Congregational body in England, and that 
I have made over to the General Trustees of the Free Church of Scotland the sum of 
;^2ooo sterling, in trust, for the purpose of founding a Lectureship in memory of the 
late Reverend WilHam Cunningham, D. D., Principal of the Free Church College, 
Edinburgh, and Professor of Divinity and Church History therein, and under the 
following conditions, namely, — First, The Lectureship shall bear the name, and be 
called, 'The Cunningham Lectureship.' Second, The Lecturer shall be a Minister or 
Professor of the Free Church of Scotland, and shall hold the appointment for not less 
than two years, nor more than three years, and be entitled for the period of his holding 
the appointment to the income of the endowment as declared by the General Trustees, 
it being understood that the Council after referred to may occasionally appoint a 
minister or professor from other denominations, provided this be approved of by not 
fewer than Eight Members of the Council, and it being further understood that the 
Council are to regulate the terms of payment of the lecturer. Third, The lecturer 
shall be at liberty to choose his own subject within the range of Apologetical, Doctrinal, 
Controversial, Exegetical, Pastoral, or Historical Theology, including what bears on 
missions, home and foreign, subject to the consent of the Council. Fourth, The 
lecturer shall be bound to deliver publicly at Edinburgh a course of lectures on the 
subjects thus chosen at some time immediately preceding the expiry of his appoint- 
ment, and during the Session of the New College, Edinburgh ; the lectures to be not 
fewer than six in number, and to be delivered in presence of the professors and students 
under such arrangements as the Council may appoint ; the lecturer shall be bound 
also to print and publish, at his own risk, not fewer than 750 copies of the lectures 
within a year after their delivery, and to deposit three copies of the same in the Library 
of the New College ; the form of the publication shall be regulated by the Council. 
Fifth, A Council shall be constituted, consisting of (first) Two Members of their own 
body, to be chosen annually in the month of March, by the Senatus of the New College, 
other than the Principal ; (second) Five Members to be chosen annually by the General 
Assembly, in addition to the Moderator of the said Free Church of Scotland ; together 
with (third) the Principal of the said New College for the time being, the Moderator 
of the said General Assembly for the time being, the procurator or law adviser of the 
Church, and myself the said William Binny Webster, or such person as I may nominate 
to be my successor : the Principal of the said College to be Convener of the Council, 
and any Five Members duly convened to be entitled to act notwithstanding the non- 
election of others. Sixth, The duties of the Council shall be the following : — (first), 
To appoint the lecturer and determine the period of his holding the appointment, the 
appointment to be made before the close of the Session of College immediately pre- 
ceding the termination of the previous lecturer's engagement ; (second). To arrange 
details as to the delivery of the lectures, and to take charge of any additional income 
and expenditure of an incidental kind that may be connected therewith, it being under- 
stood that the obligation upon the lecturer is simply to deliver the course of lectures 
free of expense to himself. Seventh, The Council shall be at liberty, on the expiry cf 
five years, to make any alteration that experience may suggest as desirable in the 
details of this plan, provided such alterations shall be approved of by not fewer than 
Eight Members of the Council. 





Ej^i aSfiiif) ^txitu of tf)t Cunningl^am HccturoS. 








THE Cunningham Lecture for 1873 was originally 
allotted to a minister, distinguished alike as 
a student and as a preacher, whom circumstances 
unfortunately prevented from executing the task. 
Called to fill the vacant place, on his resignation, I 
was led to fix on the subject of this volume, not with- 
out a hope of ultimately giving to it a more complete 
treatment than a fixed number of oral lectures can 
easily admit. Under the influence of the same hope 
I have too long delayed the publication ; but have, 
discovered, as I might have foreseen, that to recast a 
performance like this with a view to another kind of 
treatment, is an enterprise too unpromising and too 
irksome to be carried through. As the Lectures now 
stand, they are not much altered, and very probably 
they are not at all improved. 

I fear that the title may lead some reader to expect 
an attempt to exhibit, in historical detail, how the 
actual Christian Doctrines, collectively and separately, 
have been delivered and developed. Nothing could 
be more interesting, if successfully performed ; but 

viii PREFACE. 

certainly no undertaking could be more preposterous, 
when six Lectures, or a single octavo, is the space 
allotted for the performance. My task is a more 
humble one. Such explanations as the nature of it 
requires will be found in the close of the first Lecture, 
and in Note M subjoined to it. 





Occupancy of Christian Mind with Doctrine, . . . i 

Debates, ........ 2 

Organization of Doctrine as Science, . . • • 3 

History of Doctrine, ...... 4 

Doubts regarding it, ...-.• 5 

Theories of Doctrinal Method drawn from History, . . 6 

Successive Forms — Fathers, . . . . • 7 

Schoolmen, ........ 9 

Reformation, . . . . . . .11 

Conceptions of History of Doctrine — Romish and Reformed, . 13 

Common Ground, . . . . . • • ^5 

Variation of Romish Theory — Development, ... 16 

Dr. Newman, ....... 17 

Protestant Orthodoxies, . . . . . .21 

Modern Criticism, . . . . . • .21 

Method, ......-• 23 

Conception of Genesis of Doctrine, .... 25 

Application to Question of its Worth, .... 27 

Question of Competency of Dogmatic, .... 29 

Effort of Unbelievers to appropriate the Bible, ... 30 

Topics of the Course, ...... 3^ 

Formal, not Material, ...••• 33 



Historical Method, Successive Lessons, . 

Concrete, ....... 



Manifestation of God entering into History, 

The Supernatural and Miraculous, 

Method adapted to Man, Fallen or Unfallen, 

Our Information, how far Complete, 

Great Themes : Character of God, 

Evil of Sin, ..... 

Hope of Deliverance, 

Elements of this World — the Means of Impression, 

But related to Conscience, and filled with Presence of God, 

Revelation of Gospel to Early World, 

Abrahamic Covenant — Land and Seed, . 

How the Discipline was vitalized, . 

Variety and Fulness of Training made good, 

Expectant Attitude of Church, 

Mosaic Legislation — Law, . . . 

Stringency of Rules, 

The Kingdom — Righteousness and Peace, 

Prophetic Ministry, 

Messianic Prophecy, 

Psalms, ..... 

Doctrinal Developments from these Materials, 

But more distinct to us than to them. 

Results, ..... 

Christ in Old Testament, . 

Summary, ..... 

Identity of Faith with Diversities of Knowledge, 

Fulness of God's Thought, and Poverty of Man's, 

Old Testament implies and requires Doctrinal Revelation 

following, ..... 

Combination of the Apprehensible and the Profound, 















Variety of Elements besides the Doctrinal, 

Contrasts between Old Testament and New Testament — Old 
Testament Church looking forward to what New Testament 
Church has received, ...... 

Progressive Revelation in contrast with Completed, 

Implicit Teaching in contrast with Explicit, 





Historical Method in both, .... 

Especial Elements which enter into New Testament History, 

Relation of History to Doctrine, . 

Gospels, ...... 

Early Apostolic Teaching, 

Epistles, ...... 

Regulation of Thought by Principles of Truth a Leading Object 
in the Epistles, .... 

Church to be trained in Doctrine as never before, 

Doctrine not delivered in School Methods, 

Method of Discussion, .... 

Illustration of Adaptation of New Testament Teaching, 

All Human Capacities addressed, . 

Freedom in Use of Language, 

Hence Clearness of Scripture, 

Occasional Character of Epistles, . 

Conclusion : New Testament Administration of Truth deter- 
mined by Relation of its Doctrines to Facts of Divine 
History, ....... 

And to Christian Practice, ...... 

Not Statical, but Dynamical, . . . . . 










Doctrine as professed by Believer, and as delivered in Scrip 
ture, ...... 

Right of former, ..... 

Case of Single Mind, .... 

Passive and Active Functions : Elements dealt with. 

Appropriation of Teaching, what it implies. 

Proportion between Meaning and Terms, . 

Disciple's Meaning — how expressed. 

Doctrine as uttered by the Believer is formally human, 

Worth of this Distinction, 

Objection, ...... 

Answer, ...... 

Teaching received to be reproduced. 

Obligation to use Care in verifying and defining Doctrinal 
Statements, ....... 







Various Ends or Uses of them, . . . . • 

Conditions which affect the Doctrinal Process : Historical 

Method of Scripture, . . • • • 

Relation to Practice, . • • • • 

Effects of these Conditions, . . • • 

Church— Bearing of her Calling and Office on Doctrine, 
What said of Believer applicable to Church, 
Distribution of Parts, . . . . • 

Office of Church as instituted Society, 
Influence of the Community on the Individual, . 
Church trains the Individual, . . . • 

Influence communicated to gifted Members of the Church, and 

to Bearers of Office, ..... 
Further Influence of Church as Teaching Institute, 
And as Disciplinary Institute, .... 
Care of Doctrine part of Church's Life, . 
Ultimate Tribunal, ...-■• 



Difficulty as to Measure within which Dogmatic Activity should 

be confined. 
Argument against Dogma, 
Two Main Lines, 
First, from Nature of Source in Scripture : Scripture Statements 

Analogical only, ..... 

The Analogical Teaching also Experimental, 
Analogical Knowledge, Worth in other Departments, 
Limits of Knowledge, ..... 

Second, from Limits of our Faculties : Knowledge relative, 
Scripture professes to deliver Reliable Knowledge, 
Mediation of this Knowledge, 
Pattern or Specimen Articles, 
Analogy of Knowledge of Children, 
Limits to be acknowledged, 
Question as to Inferential Reasoning, 
Cannot be excluded. 

Limits depend on the Ends the Revealer had in view, . 
And on the Relation of our Terms to Scripture Thoughts, 
Lessons from Experience in other Fields, 
Summary, ....... 



Doctrine— the Obedience of our Thoughts to the Scriptures, 
Doctrine of the Trinity, ..... 
Consciousness of Ignorance, .... 






Development in Scripture, .... 

Development subsequently a Distinct Question, . 

Development asserted by Rationalists, 

And by Romanists — Dr. Newman, 

Not the Old Romish View, 

Old Protestant Position, 


Opponents of Dr. Newman — Concessions, 

Considerations which suggest Development, 

Development asserted, 

Starting-point of Development, 

Illustration from Case of Individual, 

Differences of the Case of Early Church, . 

State of Church, how to be conceived, 

Defect of Doctrinal Views : Existing in different Ways — Simple 

Elementariness, ..... 

Result of Human Blindness and Indocility, 

Aim of the Development from Starting-point thus assigned. 

Errors in estimating Starting-point, 

Amount of Doctrinal Knowledge always present in Church, 

Sense of Resource, ...... 

Virtual hold of Truths not yet explicitly brought out. 

Progress from this Starting-point rendered possible by the 

Structure of the Christian Revelation, 
And by the Structure of the Christian Church, 
Objection from View implied of State of Early Church, 
Objection from Difficulty of conceiving Questions not yet raised. 
Objection on Ground of Unity of the Faith, 
Development might be conceived to proceed simply by sue 

cessive Existence of Generations of Christians, 
Other Sources of Impulse, in Point of Fact : Collision of Faith 

with pre-existent Opinions, 
Collision of Faith with Heresies, . 








Arianism, ...... 

Systematic Influence, not powerful in Early Days, 
Questions rise successively, and cannot be anticipated, 
Permanent Effect which follows, . 
Guiding Rule, . . ... 

Possibility of False Development, 
Sources of it, 

No Ideal Programme of History of Church, 
Reformation a Doctrinal Development, . 
Summary, ..... 

Successive Attainments, 

Development not always the Present Work, 

Progress of Church's Thoughts regarding the Old Testament, 

Attitude to be maintained towards the Past, 







Diversities of Judgment regarding Doctrine, and Primary Duties 
in connection with them, .... 

Whether they may be borne with, .... 

Action of the Church : Disciplinary Decisions, . 

Respect due to them — Romish and Protestant Views, 

Use of Creeds for Instruction, especially with reference to 
Doctrinal Antagonism, .... 

Apostles' Creed : Nicene, ..... 

Reformation Confessions, Double Object,. 

Application to Members and to Office-bearers, . 

Argument in behalf of Creeds, .... 

Objections, ....... 

Admitted that Churches have dispensed with Formal Creeds as 
Foundation for Discipline, .... 

Replies to Objections, ..... 

Liberty of the Church, ..... 

Distinction between Members and Office-bearers, 

Admission as to Tendency of Creeds, 

Right of Church to use Creeds argued from Case of Heresy, 

Duty of Church in that case, .... 

Creeds in relation to this Process, .... 

Further Argument from Open Questions, . 







Secondary Elements in Creeds and Confessions, . . . 261 

Grounds on which introduced, ..... 264 

Operation of Creeds for Protection of Ordinary Members — Intro- 
duction of Secondary Elements in this Connection, . 267 
Secondary Elements, as justified from consideration of Existence 

of other Churches, ...... 270 

Question regarding Creeds as inherited from the Past, . . 271 

Defence on this Point, ...... 272 

Readiness to undertake Revision essential on Protestant Prin- 
ciples, ........ 274 

Difficulties of Revision, ...... 275 

Ought not to be allowed to shut out the Duty, . . . 276 

Extent of Confessions in relation to Liability to Revision, . 278 

In relation to different Classes of Office-bearers, . . . 282 

Dangers in this relation, illustrated by Experience of the Church, 284 

Notes, ........ 291 



THIS Lecture shall be devoted to explain the 
ground over which I mean to travel, and to 
indicate the views which have suggested the selection 
of it for treatment in the present course. 

One of the great objects which occupy and exercise 
the minds of Christians and of Churches, is doctrine. 
Articles, claiming to be articles of belief or know- 
ledge, drawn from the Christian Revelation, are enter- 
tained, advocated, and applied over the whole field 
of Christian profession. They refer to what God is, 
and has done, and is doing, and is yet to do : they 
refer to the relations in which man was originally 
placed to God, in which he now stands, which he may 
attain or realize, and to the ultimate issues in either 
case. The centre of them all is Jesus Christ — come, 
dead, risen, and ascended. These doctrines, these 
articles of belief or knowledge, are identified, they are 
brought to our own memory, or to the knowledge of 
others, in forms of words which men have selected for 
the purpose of briefly and clearly expressing them. Or 


if Scripture words or sentences are employed, it is 
in some determinate sense, which has been fixed in 
disquisitions and discussions that are later than the 
close of Revelation, About doctrines, then, there has 
notoriously been much disagreement among Christians. 
Most of them have been vigorously debated ; rival 
statements contest with one another the palm of legiti- 
mately representing what God would teach ; also, 
where one party asserts that solid footing can be found, 
another maintains that nothing can be said except by 
trespassing wildly beyond the limits of the revealed. 

Now the debates hence arising must occupy them- 
selves primarily with the evidence supposed to be 
available in behalf of, or against, the tenets in dispute. 
But not unfrequently the debate goes down, or back, 
into more fundamental points. Pleas and arguments 
are introduced which depend on such questions as 
these : What the conditions are under which, and the 
limits within which, the human mind may be warranted 
in laying down doctrines ; and how far it is reasonable 
to think that the Bible or the inspired teachers de- 
signed to furnish us with materials to be used in that 
way, to be fused and reproduced in those definite and 
invariable forms. Especially are such considerations 
raised when doctrines are in dispute, of which one 
side affirms that they travel into matter outside the 
sphere of intelligent and intelligible thought, and out- 
side the sphere of unambiguous revelation. 

But if considerations of this kind are suggested in 
connection with questions of doctrine, still more in- 
evitably do they arise in connection with the exciting 
question of creeds. Creeds are statements of doctrine 

Lect. I.] AS SCIENCE. 3 

adopted by Churches, for the purpose of holding 
forth to the world what they profess, and fixing the 
standard of their constant and invariable teaching. 
Here, therefore, doctrine is pressed with a greater 
weight of authority ; and the convictions of individuals 
on the one hand, and of societies of long duration and 
wide extent on the other, have to be adjusted, or else 
come into collision. But is it fit that any doctrine 
should be placed in this position ? and, if any, how 
much of doctrine ? and how should the Church con- 
ceive itself to be related to the creed — how the 
Church, and how the individual ? All these questions 
turn on the true nature and reason of this form of 
thought and speech which we call doctrine, on the 
warrants for the function performed by the believer 
and the Church in the field of doctrine, on the length 
to which it is legitimate to carry it, and the uses to 
which it may legitimately be put. 

There is still another way in which the same con- 
siderations are forced into notice. Christian doctrine 
assumes the character of a science ; it has been 
treated in that character by many schools, and thrown 
into many forms. The systematic tendencies thus 
set in motion have often reacted strongly on the 
doctrines themselves, sometimes on the very form of 
them, often on the associations with which they are 
invested, and the kind of influence which they exert. 
But here two parties, at least, hint a doubt, and more 
than hesitate dislike : on the one side, those who may 
be called Bible Christians, starting from their impres- 
sions of the way in which Bible teaching was meant 
to operate on the mind ; on the other side, those who, 


without imputing so much authority to the Bible, 
regard the whole subject, of religion as lying beyond 
the horizon of precise statements and logical argu- 
ments. Both of these parties (each from its own 
ground) question the right of Christian doctrine to 
assume the character of science. And both, therefore, 
recur to the question : By what right Christian doc- 
trine exists, and what its nature, warrants, and legiti- 
mate uses may be thought to be. 

Further, Christian doctrine not only has a being, 
it has a history ; a very large, various, and interesting 
history it is, not soon mastered, not easily judged. 
In this department an immense amount of effort 
has been put forth. The work has exercised the 
minds of men profoundly. The record of it extends 
into great masses of literature. The fruits of it have 
exerted a great and widespread influence, whether the 
influence in the separate cases, or on the whole, may 
have been for evil or for good. Those fruits have 
formed an element, not the least powerful and signifi- 
cant, in the movement of our race down the track of 

Moreover, the work has not gone on harmoniously 
— far otherwise. The pages that record it are scarred 
with controversies, full of discomfort and anxiety for 
those whose hearts trembled for the ark of God. Not 
that these trials were without their compensation. 
It is very doubtful whether vigilant converse with 
revealed truth, and progressive insight into it, are to 
be had in this world on any other terms. Yet the 
trials are so great, that all along men have been 
questioning uneasily, whether the work to be done in 

lect. l] doubts and warnings. 5 

this department could not be better done, and some 
wiser mode of view found, that should escape these 
evils. For still the safety and refreshment of the 
Church lay in passing back out of all debates into the 
field of Scripture, there to find a wonderful rest, and 
fulness, and freshness. But could not this benefit be 
enjoyed without the necessity of passing out of it into 
that hard toil, and passing through the toil back into 
the green fields again ? Men questioned uneasily — 
questioning more often than getting an answer. For 
the controversies proved inevitable ; and when ques- 
tions were once raised, it was never possible to make 
as if they had not been raised, and forget them 

Partly in connection with the controversies, partly 
in connection with the mere eager interest in their 
work cherished by dogmatic men and dogmatic 
periods, there have come warnings and doubts, from 
an early date, concerning the danger of mistaking the 
road. The apprehension is again and again expressed 
that a foreign element — a mixed speech — is intruding 
into this part of the Church's work. Speculative men 
proved prone to take the great thoughts of Revelation, 
and weave them into one web with their philosophies. 
Thus subtle transmutation passed upon the truth. In 
the new connection it seemed to be the same as before, 
but it was not really so. And keen, critical men sub- 
jected the living words of Scripture to a cold, curious 
dissection and cross-questioning, with the effect of 
bringing the truth into captivity to the methods of 
unbelief, or compelling the faith of Christians to 
measure itself by a standard not its own. ' Non com- 


placuit Deo in dialectica salvum facere populum 
suum,'^ is a warning uttered in many forms. It raises 
still the question, What kind of work are we really 
called to here, and how should it be done ? It is to 
be noticed that these warnings and reclamations did 
not come only from one quarter or one side. Heretics 
are as eloquent as orthodox, and orthodox as heretics, 
in favour of Biblical simplicity, and against school 
terms. Often enough, a heresy, infected with thorough 
rationalism at the outset, turned round and became 
Biblical, or quasi Biblical, at a certain point. As soon 
as a counter statement, adapted to expose its own 
sinuosities, began to gain ground, an outcry was 
raised that this was going beyond the words and 
thoughts of Scripture.^ 

Nor is this the only way in which, during its long 
history, men have been led to dwell on the conditions 
under which doctrine exists. For they have been 
led to dwell on the conditions under which it passes 
down from one age to another. The process has gone 
on so long, that morals have been gathered from the 
mere survey of how it has gone on. This began al- 
most as soon as it was possible it should ; men draw- 
ing on the past history of doctrine for arguments to 
settle what the present doctrine should be. The same 
thing continues to this hour : only now the history of 
doctrine is rather drawn upon for arguments to settle 
whether doctrine has any right to be at all ; or, at any 
rate, whether it can claim to be more, in any of its 
forms, than so much changeable human opinion. 

A brief survey will show how these various interests 

^ Ambros. De Fide, i. 5. ^ Note A. 


have attached themselves to the progress of doctrinal 

In the earliest ages of the Church,, the teaching was, 
no doubt, extremely simple, and drawn in grand Scrip- 
ture outlines. Soon, however, it became the occasion 
of controversies, the most important of which had 
respect to the Trinity and the person of Christ. In 
the West, the effects of the fall,, and the effects of the 
grace which saves, came subsequently into discussion 
in addition. Now the questions arising, as one alter- 
native after another was put prominently forward, 
were mainly debated and decided on the ground of the 
testimony of prophets and apostles, as recorded in the 
Scriptures. But yet very soon another kind of plea 
made its appearance in the field. It was an applica- 
tion of historical considerations. In substance it came 
to this : when a doctrine or mode of view presented 
itself as claiming to pass for Christian truth, it was con- 
troverted by saying, ' It makes its appearance too late. 
If it had been authorized, it would have been heard of 
before. If it were part of the faith once delivered to 
the saints, it would not have been so late in putting 
in an appearance to claim its right' The allegation 
was made good by proving that, since the time when 
revelation ceased, the doctrine in question had not 
been heard of in the Churches, — for instance, in the 
great representative Churches, which might serve for 
specimens of the whole Church. Commonly enough, 
this consideration came in after much of the argument 
on either side, bearing precisely on the disputed point, 
had been pleaded. In its own nature, however, it was 
a prejudicial plea. It raised a prior issue on the 


mere facts of history, antecedent to going to issue on 
the merits of the evidence. It proposed to establish a 
prescription which should wrest from the article alleged 
all rio-ht to be heard on the merits, or should at least 
disable it from pleading them to any effectual purpose. 
In application to some of the questions raised in 
those days, this line of argument had real and great 
force. It lay open, indeed, to such dangerous ampli- 
fications, that one would think an intelligent man could 
hardly use it without feeling the necessity of urging it 
with caution. There may be newness of expression 
when the thing expressed is old. There may be new- 
ness of application, which only contributes unlooked- 
for fertility to an old principle, doing it no wrong, 
doing only right to it. And there may be a new 
development, which only draws from the divine revela- 
tion unexpected elucidations and confirmations, adding 
light, harmony, and fulness to what was received be- 
fore. At any rate, with such reasonable qualifications 
or without, the line of argument we speak of was felt 
to be attractive. It was early presented and forcibly 
pressed in Christian discussion. It is pleaded by 
Irenseus ; it forms the burden of a whole treatise of 
Tertullian ; it became a commonplace of succeeding 
controversialists ; and it contributes to the famous rule 
of Vincentius of Lerins [qtcod semper quod itbiqiie 
quod ad omnibus) — vague, treacherous, and worthless 
as it is — any measure of plausibility it possesses. In 
its earlier days it was urged only on behalf of funda- 
mental truths. Further applications of it were not 
yet in view.^ 

1 Note B. 


In the patristic discussions which have now been 
referred to, definite theological tendencies appear 
conspicuously ; and different schools of thought, ani- 
mated by different tendencies, bring out characteristic 
types of doctrine, conceived and stated according to 
the tendency that prevailed in each school. But as 
yet, nothing very rounded or detailed In the way of 
complete treatment and arrangement had been at- 
tempted. The summaries of Christian teaching which 
were then given forth do not suggest the Idea of a 
great ambition in the direction of system-building. 

It was otherwise when the schoolmen arose. For 
them, It was a settled thing that the prevailing tradi- 
tions of the Fathers, as well as the solemn determina- 
tions of the Church, were to be taken as of conclusive 
authority. But, along with this submission, the most 
audacious efforts of the reason went hand in hand. 
What the schoolmen undertook was to represent 
truth from the point of view of faith ; so that the whole 
world of mind, the whole body of principles, natural 
and revealed, which determine the life of man, and 
regulate the world of which he is a part, should fall 
Into a blessed order, and shine out with their own 
intrinsic evidence. Reason, entering at the door of 
faith, was to find open pathways In all directions, and 
to take conscious possession of the Inner reason and 
meaning of the spiritual world. It was, in a manner, 
an attempt to scale heaven, and to think the thoughts 
of God ; only it was confessed that our thoughts must 
be explicated Into ordered series, linked and deduced 
the one from the other, while His thoughts have the 
unity proper to His simple and eternal nature. It 


was a strange mixture of materials ; and in the treat- 
ment of them there was a strange variety of strength 
and weakness, all alike being submitted to the same 
dexterous logic, and obliged to take rank as that might 
dictate. With the contents of these systems — the 
measure of truth and of falsehood in them — we do 
not meddle here. We note only that systematic com- 
pleteness was the object aimed at, and a defensible 
systematic harmony was a condition always in view in 
the treatment of each point. In this view no alterna- 
tive was to be left unsifted, no question allowed to 
slumber unexamined. 

Hardly were the first beginnings made, when un- 
easiness and alarm at this method of theologizing were 
expressed by some of those who represented the point 
of view of the practical Christian mind.^ But all efforts 
to arrest it were thoroughly vain. It would have 
been as easy to stop the crusades. The impulse went 
on, learning, as it did so, to reconcile more skilfully 
the ready submission to authority with the dialectic 
audacity. If there were some who exposed them- 
selves to suspicion, or fell utterly into discredit in 
point of orthodoxy, there were others who became the 
champions of the faith, and established their method 
as the true defence against its enemies, and the appro- 
priate discipline for those who desired to penetrate the 
mysteries of Christian wisdom. Warning and doubting 
voices still sounded, not greatly heeded. It was from 
internal causes rather than from external admonition, 
that scholasticism became haunted with a doubt, and 
visited with a slow decay. The wonderful edifice that 

1 Note C. 


had been in building so long, was still to be kept, and 
swept, and builded higher. But it was somewhat in 
the spirit of men who knew not well whether all they 
builded might not be such stuff as dreams are made 
of ^ The enthusiastic confidence of the early school- 
men was annulled ; and, long before the Reformation, 
the decay of scholasticism was adding its contribution 
to the other kinds of decay which made the temple 
of God a ruinous heap. 

When the Reformation came, with its awakening of 
the conscience, its direct appeal to Scripture teaching, 
and its frank dealing with the necessities of human 
souls, it brought with it a strong recoil, not only from 
the scholastic doctrine, but from the scholastic method. 
The form in which this was usually expressed, was to 
denounce the mixture of philosophy which had been 
combined with the teaching of the schoolmen, and their 
substitution of the wisdom of men for the wisdom of 
God. Almost all the great Reformers spent much of 
their time in the work of expounding the word of 
God, and it was a leading conception of the new 
administration of the truth that it was to be Biblical. 
The early arrangements for theological instruction in 
several churches of the Reformation bore the stamp 
of a time when direct converse with the Scriptures 
was held to be the main, almost the exclusive, ,dis- 
cipHne in which a theologian should be trained.^ 

However, the Protestant teaching had to be gathered 
up into heads and articles. Moreover, it retained of 
course so much of the earlier doctrine as it judged to 
be agreeable to God's word. The form and cast of 

^ F. C. Baur, Christl. Dogmengeschichte, ii. 235. ^ jsjote D. 


the doctrine thus retained bore the stamp, in many 
articles, of the work spent upon them by the keen 
scrutinizinof labourers of the schools. Still further, 
the conception of an ordered system consistent with 
itself, superior in its origin to the whole system of 
truth that is naturally discoverable, yet, when rightly 
conceived, harmonious with it, was still cherished. It 
was a legacy from the scholastic age that abode with 
strength in thinking minds. Soon, therefore, men were 
eagerly employed in setting forth, in careful organic 
delineation, the whole doctrinal result and achievement 
of the Reformation, settling the adjustments of doc- 
trine with doctrine, evolving what was implied, supple- 
menting what seemed defective. The task was sure 
to be attempted in any case ; but the great examples 
which the schools had left suggested it the more 
strongly. It was urged on, too, by the necessities of 
controversy, which refused to be shut out from any 
corner of the theological field when an apparent incon- 
sistency could be challenged, or a plausible distinction 
improved. The confessions had to be expounded, 
compared, defended, attacked ; so there rose over 
against one another the systems of the Protestant and 
the Catholic Churches, both based professedly on 
apostolic teaching — the first finding it in the Scrip- 
tures, the latter in the Scriptures and tradition, guarded 
and expounded by the infallible Church. Then the 
Protestant systems diverged from one another, accord- 
ing to the peculiarities of the Churches; and the Catholic 
schools diverged also, though a strong hand held them 
circling endlessly round fixed and allotted points. 
In the conflict between the Protestants and the 


Church of Rome, arguments soon began to be em- 
ployed which turned on the conception that ought to 
be formed of the history of doctrine, and the conditions 
under which it must unfold itself. These arguments 
may be said to have prepared the way for the modern 
criticism of Christian doctrine. The critical schools of 
the eiehteenth and nineteenth centuries have, of course, 
contemplated doctrine from a point of view very diffe- 
rent from that which the controversialists of the seven- 
teenth century occupied. Yet their debates prepared 
abundant material and also abundant suggestions for 
the later critics, and there is a real connection between 
the two. 

The Church of Rome maintained that the Reforma- 
tion teaching in all its main peculiarities was an inno- 
vation on the faith of the early Church, and of the 
Church of all ages. It could not be the true faith, for 
it was new. The Reformers, on their side, brought a 
corresponding accusation against Rome. Her doctrine, 
they said, in a hundred different articles, was to be 
classed as recent corruption. This accusation was by 
far the more dangerous of the two, because Rome pro- 
fessed to rely so much on the continual witness of the 
Church in her favour. The Reformers laid their finger 
on doctrines and practices which had grown up gradu- 
ally in late ages. These being as unknown to the early 
Church as to the Scriptures, were as much to be re- 
jected on the principles of Rome herself, as on the 
principles of the Protestants. It was an obvious 
argument on both sides, perhaps, and could hardly fail 
to be adduced. The worst of it was, that it led into 
an immense field, and assumed a bulk wholly dispro- 


portioned to its intrinsic importance. Moreover, it in- 
volved the adduction and discussion of an immense 
amount of citation, the meaning of which was doubtful, 
and the relevancy disputable. Nor did either side 
escape uninjured from the temptation to twist and 
torture patristic testimonies, to adduce them in a 
sense which was far from the author's meaning, and 
to force meanings on them in cases in which the 
author perhaps had written without much meaning of 
any kind. For each party undertook to acquire for 
itself explicit testimony and sanction of the early 
Church in behalf of the main things it taught, and 
to disprove as much for its opponent. 

On the Protestant side, for instance, the assumption 
and assertion made were, that the main truths taught 
by Protestants and rejected by Romanists, were not 
only taught in Scripture, but were also the faith 
of the early Church. It was not so material to the 
Protestant cause to maintain the latter assertion, for 
the Scripture constituted the Protestant rule of faith. 
Still, ex abtmdanti, the Protestants were willing to 
maintain that the facts of early ecclesiastical history 
corroborated their exposition of Scripture teaching ; 
and, confident in the goodness of their cause, they 
very frankly claimed to be as ready to face an issue 
on this ground as on any other. Therefore they held 
that, bating phrases and modes of explaining, the 
early Church had and held the full evangelical doc- 
trine which the Protestants now held forth from the 
Scriptures. So, on the other side, they argued that 
if the teaching of Romanism were true, it must be 
found first, of course, in Scripture, but also secondly 


in the early Church. They undertook, therefore, to 
show that Romanism included a mass of novelties 
unknown to the Church for many ages. 

The Romanists, again, were the more obliged to 
labour in this field, because, according to them, tradi- 
tion formed part of the rule of faith. Therefore, 
while they assailed Protestant peculiarities as novel- 
ties, they had to maintain that the faith of Rome had 
been held in the Church of Christ from first to last. 
This burdened them with very serious argumentative 
responsibilities, but such as could hardly be declined. 
In the earlier stages of the controversy, before criti- 
cism had done Its work in thoroughly sifting the 
patristic writings, the means of getting up a plausible 
case were more plentiful than they were afterwards. 
When explicit passages could not be produced to sus- 
tain Romish teaching, It remained to assign reasons 
for thinking that it might have been held and taught 
in those ages, though not expressly delivered In the 
remaining writings. The lamentable loss of early 
literature, the corruptions of heretics, and the disciplina 
arcani, did duty for this purpose. Passages positively 
adverse could be explained away. 

On each side, therefore, the tendency was to ascribe 
to the early Church an explicit maintenance of all 
truths agreed on by Protestants and Romanists, and 
also what each party, as distinguished from the other, 
held to be sound teaching. Neither side, of course, 
was disposed to doubt that phrases and modes of state- 
ment might vary from age to age, as circumstances 
might suggest, and especially as the necessities of 
controversy and the subtlety of heretics might dictate. 


But this applied to the form of expression or explana- 
tion, not to the articles held and taught, believed and 
applied to practice. Meanwhile, these controversial 
motives urged on a survey and scrutiny of the whole 
history of doctrine, which was not always impartial, 
but was certainly keen and sifting. 

Now, although the issue, as I have stated it, was 
the issue commonly taken between the controver- 
sialists, yet there were circumstances on the Romish 
side that were fitted to suggest another view of the 
facts. First, there was great controversial difficulty 
in maintaining that the whole breadth of Romish 
doctrine was current in the Church during ages in 
which it had palpably not yet been contrived. But, 
secondly, there was the habit of looking to Rome to 
decide emergent questions as they turned up. When 
Rome spoke, the view in favour of which she decided 
became a ' faith,' although before it was but a disput- 
able opinion, and although it referred to a matter 
which, but a stage or tw^o further back, was not dis- 
cussed at all. With every theological decision the 
' faith ' grows. This was fitted to suggest the idea 
that a good part of the Roman ' faith ' might probably 
have originated in the same way. Thirdly, there has, 
no doubt, been considerable variety from age to age 
in the amount of doctrinal teaching prevailing in the 
Church, and authorized by her collective Christian 
voice ; and as research went on, the impression due 
to this fact grew. Altogether, there was much to 
suggest to studious men this idea as a convenient 
solution of difficulties, — viz., that the Church not 
only fixes traditions, but also developes doctrines, or 

Lect. I.] PETAVIUS. 17 

completes the doctrinal system, by educing and 
expressing deliverances on matters on which the 
primitive teaching had nothing direct or certain to 

Instances of some reference or allusion to such an 
idea may be gleaned from various periods. One, 
which created a good deal of attention both in the 
Church of Rome and among Protestants, had no re- 
ference to the Reformation controversy, but to the 
course of opinion on the doctrine of our Lord's divine 
nature. Petavius, in his great work, gave a state- 
ment of facts as to alleged changes of opinion, and an 
explanation of them, which amounted pretty nearly to 
a doctrine of development. It was not well received, 
however, even in his own communion, and he found 
it expedient to qualify his statements.^ The champions 
of Rome continued, on the whole, to assert a thorough 
unity of doctrine from first to last, and to face, as 
best they could, the difficulties imposed on them by 
the conditions of their argument. Still, in particular 
emergencies, they resorted to explanations, which 
really came to this, that the recent teaching of Rome 
must be admitted to be in some sense new, but that it 
had been legitimately delivered, and was now authori- 

Latterly, however, the tendency to form explana- 
tions, such as those now referred to, into a general 
theory, has begun to prevail in the management of 
the debate. Defenders of the infallibility of the 
Church, whose circumstances have led them to survey 
history in a comparatively free and speculative way, 

1 Note E. 


have felt the necessity of recasting the argument, 
and representing the history of doctrine as a grand 
progressive development. Mohler^ may be referred 
to as inaugurating this mode of representing the 
case ; but it is Dr. Newman who is chiefly to be 
kept in view. Others have occasionally resorted to 
explanations which virtually involved the notion of 
development, or have advanced the idea in a brief 
and passing manner. But it is he who has set it 
forth as a general theory, underlying and explaining 
the whole succession of facts in the history of doctrine. 
The theory is this : that a great part of Christian 
doctrine existed at first, but as mere germs or points 
of commencement ; fruitful ideas capable of various 
growth were barely deposited in the Church's mind ; 
so that nothing in the Scriptures, or anywhere else, 
could at that time furnish ground for a conjecture 
as to the full-blown dogmatic development which has 
since ensued. But these germs were to be unfolded. 
They were sufficient to set agoing tendencies of the 
Church's spirit, movements of her affections, aspira- 
tions of her faith, religious longings and yearnings. 
These give rise, as time goes on, to various pious 
opinions in the minds of men, and devout observ^ances 
in their worship. Opposition Is made, perhaps, at 
first to the new forms of speech and practice, but 
they gradually grow and gain ground. Here comes 
in the infallible authority of the Church. There Is In 
the Church a power to sift the results of this de- 
velopment. Some of the results approve themselves 
to the infallible tribunal, and it communicates to them 

1 Note F. 


— such of them as It finds to be sound and vaHd — 
a divine sanction. Thenceforth men are bound to 
receive them with a divine faith. The theory is 
made to apply not merely to points in dispute be- 
tween Romanists and Protestants, but to many others. 
It is maintained that the whole history of doctrine 
establishes this theory, and requires it. It is also 
maintained that a just conception of doctrine itself, 
and of the function of human minds in connection 
with doctrine, leads necessarily to the same conclu- 
sion.^ Since the publication of Dr. Newman's book, 
which was written and published just at the time 
of his joining the Church of Rome, his views have 
gained ground with many Romanists and Anglicans ; 
and in the former communion, even those who do 
not adopt them unreservedly, show a disposition to 
speak of them approvingly, as supplying a useful 
alternative for the explanation of historical difficulties.- 
The theory is, at the same time, curiously acceptable 
to his Protestant opponents, who entirely agree with 
him that the system of Rome was developed very 
much as he says, and only differ with him as to the 
infallibility of the Church in sanctioning Its de- 

So much for the use made of considerations drawn 
from the history of doctrine, in the well-debated con- 
troversy between the Reformation and Rome. It Is 
time now to advert to the use made of the same 
topics in a quite different quarter, — by those, namely, 
who do not place confidence In doctrinal systems, 
nor care to rank themselves amono- the adherents 

1 Note G. 2 Note H. 


of either side in controversies between churches. To 
them, indeed, both Mohler and Newman owed the 
hints on which they worked. Newman's weapon 
had been wielded in a very different cause from his, 
before he took it, new forged it, and baptized it for 
the purposes of Rome. 

Revert for a moment to the point at which we stood 
some pages back — the epoch of the separation of the 
Roman Catholic and Protestant conceptions of the 
Christian faith. From that time, and during a couple 
of centuries which followed, the theology of the 
churches of the Reformation was taking and main- 
taining its systematic form. As I have said, it 
claimed, eminently, to be Biblical ; and therefore 
the Biblical type was everywhere impressed on the 
dogmatic work. The appeal was always made to the 
direct authority of Scripture ; the study of the text of 
Scripture was everywhere pursued. Besides, another 
grand corrective and guarantee existed in the fact that 
the doctrine was continually preached to the people 
from the open Bible ; it was therefore brought to trial 
before the tribunal of the popular understanding, and 
tested against the conscience and the heart of the body 
of believers. Yet the theological enterprise betrayed 
its liability to the well-known dangers. It offered the 
opportunity, it supplied the temptation, to handle the 
materials with a confident dogmatism alien to the 
simplicity and the obedience of faith. Warnings on 
the subject of undue speculative licence, warnings 
indeed against the mere danger of too great ab- 
sorption in doctrinal discussion, even where the 
matter of it might be sound and defensible, abound 


in the seventeenth century. They proceed not un- 
frequently from men who were themselves noted for 
their power both in doctrinal exposition and doctrinal 
debate.^ For all that, the interest, for the present, 
went into the field of dogmatics too strongly to be re- 
pressed. Most abundant labour in that field has left 
its monuments behind. The two great Protestant 
orthodoxies, the Lutheran and the Reformed, rose 
over against the repaired and renovated system of 
Rome ; while the Socinian and Arminian systems 
seemed rather to protest that other alternatives might 
be tried, than to dispute the ground effectually with 
those great antagonists. I have no wish to confound 
under one category all this various labour, in which 
many men, of various minds, took part. Some were 
men of great intellectual power, and of great moral 
qualities. Others were short-sighted, arrogant, and 
rash. It is enough to say that, human nature being 
what it is, we need not wonder if many writings and 
many controversies of that time went far beyond the 
line of wise or profitable doctrinal statement.^ 

But a great change was in preparation. It came 
partly as a recoil from the temper which had pre- 
vailed so thoroughly; in part it was due to other 
causes, which we cannot stay to specify. The seven- 
teenth century saw the change beginning. Ere the 
eighteenth century had advanced far, the tide was 
plainly leaving the channel in which it had run so 
strongly. An indifference to doctrine spread abroad 
which was soon to be followed by hostility. This 
temper applied itself to a cool critical survey of the 

^ Note I. 2 Note J. 


whole mass of doctrinal effort which the past had 
left on record. The history of the process began to 
be traced, and very pregnant morals were deduced 
from it. A succession of movements, down to our 
own day, have proceeded from this general tendency. 
One school after another has revised and modified 
the way of putting the case, and the way of stating 
the conclusion.^ But the tendency itself has worked 
without interruption ; and in our own day, various 
influences combine to give intensity to the feeling 
which inspires it, and precision to the conclusions 
which it draws. 

Those whom I have now in view are not to be 
referred to one class. They do not occupy the same 
position. Some have no dogmatic prepossession ; 
some are prepossessed against all doctrine ; some 
retain Christian beliefs, but reject most of the formal 
doctrines as commonly laid down by Christian 
churches. Some of them regard Christianity as a 
mistake ; some accept the teaching of Jesus, but not 
that of any of His followers ; some desire to abide by 
the Bible, but renounce the theologians and the sys- 
tems ; some raise no dispute with the teaching of their 
church, but feel a stronger interest in the philosophy 
of history than in the polemical merits of debated 
questions. Men of all these types take up Christian 
doctrine simply as one chapter, a large chapter, in the 
history of the human mind. It is a great subject, 
great at least in its mass, great in the part it has 
played in human affairs. Here is this activity which 
men have plied so sedulously, so resolutely, often so 

1 Note K. 


fiercely, for hundreds and hundreds of years. Here 
are the results of it, in a large and various teaching, 
— drawing into itself the deepest thoughts and words, 
and hopes and fears of man. Here it stands in each 
of its competing forms, so concatenated, rising like a 
great spiritual form on the eye, moving all together if 
it move at all. Here is the place which doctrine claims, 
the place it occupies, — challenging the attention of 
every mind, sitting in the front of every church, 
pervading and giving shape to the mass of Christian 
literature, entering the mind in youth, moulding it to 
old age. Here are the definite inevitable antagonisms 
which its mere existence creates, the sharp alternatives 
which it makes inevitable, the yes and the no which 
it forces out as its pressure tells on men and things. 
What now shall we think of it ? what judgment shall 
we pass on it ? in what methods shall we approach and 
appreciate it ? Well, it has had a history. Men have 
been at it now for many hundred years. The mere 
process of the past, duly looked at, will yield us 
lessons for the future ; it will furnish a commentary, 
both on the enterprise, whether it be legitimate, and 
on the efforts, whether they have been fruitful. The 
history, duly examined, will show us what is to be 
expected in this department, what not. It will sug- 
gest to us the conditions under which the human 
mind has been working. It will shed light on the 
question, whether this practice of deriving and ex- 
pounding doctrine is at all valid ; if valid, how it 
should be gone about ; in any case, what kind of 
weight may be wisely laid on the results. Such are 
the method and the spirit in which doctrine is con- 


sidered. The tendency to approach the matter on 
this side has become dehberate and resolute in our 
day, in conformity with well-known tendencies of 
the age. It means, you see, that, instead of ap- 
proaching the questions raised in the department of 
doctrine on the apparent proper ground of testimony 
and argument, we should apply a critical and experi- 
mental method. This is to furnish us with impres- 
sions of what, on the whole, may be expected from 
these materials, and what, on the whole, may be ex- 
pected of our tools in working with these materials. 
'You dogmatists have drawn on the history of your 
own department, in order to furnish materials of 
debate between yourselves on questions that belong 
to it. Let us now draw on it for material towards 
a more fundamental question, viz. what is to be 
thought of this whole field of labour, and what 
principles should be applied in estimating both the 
work and the fruit. We scrutinize the history, and 
mark the road by which existing positions have 
been reached. Criticism shall comment on the merits 
of the process thus disclosed, on the validity of the 
methods, on the likelihood of truth being reached 
along the line which has been followed.' 

Now, in working on these principles and from this 
point of view, two assertions have been made, or 
rather, two kinds of assertion, which deserve our atten- 
tion. One has respect to the history of the process, 
or to matter of fact ; the other has respect to the 
starting-point of the process, or the right It had ever 
to begin at all. 

As to the first, it was exceedingly natural that, con- 


templating the subject more or less in the spirit I 
have indicated, men should arrive at the conclusion 
that, in the main, in all its various lines of orthodoxy 
and heterodoxy, doctrine has been a matter of de- 
velopment — it has grown and become by virtue of 
processes and tendencies of human minds. Accord- 
ingly, the idea of development, as a general formula 
for the history of doctrine, had been suggested and 
applied long before Newman took it up. And this, 
• as I say, was natural : First, because there Is a great 
deal in the facts to suggest it. Secondly, because the 
tendency of criticism is to mark differences. As criti- 
cism passes from period to period, it notes and makes 
much of changes ; it strives to bring those changes 
under a law — and so It gets development. Thirdly, 
because the philosophical theories about man and mind 
prevailing of late years seemed to require that Chris- 
tian doctrine should have come Into being by a process 
of development, and therefore furnished a motive for 
discovering that it had been doing so. Now what 
interests us here is the application of the theory. For 
while, with some, it remained a mere way of explain- 
ing and linking the facts of history, by others it has 
been brought into play, more or less sweeplngly, 
as an implement for subverting theological positions. 
The argument is framed in this way : Every state- 
ment of Christian doctrine now advanced by a Chris- 
tian community, professes to be a statement of re- 
vealed truth. Only In that character does It lay 
claim to the peculiar attention and respect which 
are asserted for Christian verities. If It were set 
forth as a speculation of the reason only, it would 


fall to be canvassed, like other human opinions, 
on principles applicable equally to them all. But 
if it professes to be a statement of revealed truth, 
then it is a statement of what has been revealed truth 
ever since Revelation was completed. And if it is 
proposed as important and fundamental, then it has 
been important and fundamental in Christian religion 
ever since the same period. Well, then, it is asserted 
concerning a given doctrine, that it was developed at 
some known date subsequent to the apostolic age ; 
or if not developed at a known date, then formed 
gradually by processes hardly admitting of definite 
chronology, but at all events later than the close 
of the canon. It may be all very well, then, it 
is said, for you to imagine that you have found out 
arguments for this doctrine in the Scripture ; but if 
it originated so late, you must be deceiving your- 
selves, and it becomes unnecessary to examine those 
alleged arguments. Thus, for instance, it has been 
said that the doctrine of a vicarious atonement, pro- 
posed by all the great historical churches, was de- 
veloped somewhere about the twelfth century, and 
cannot therefore claim, at best, any respect beyond 
what may be due to a human speculation.^ 

Such is the way in which the principle may be 
applied in the hands of men who wish only to subvert 
some form of opinion which they think they can con- 
vict of comparative novelty. But the principle can 
lend itself to much wider operations, designed to 
bring down all the Christian doctrines and all the 
Christian churches in one common ruin. For it may 

1 Note L. 


be said : You all profess to be teaching revealed truth. 
Yet all of you alike have reached your present posi- 
tion by a progress which can be pointed out. You 
have none of you been standing fast in the primitive 
truth, if there were such a thing. You have all 
moved. Your type of doctrine has become what it 
is by development. The forces of history, of human 
society, of the human mind, have mastered you, and 
moved you, from age to age. Now, looking back on 
the long process, we can see that you have accom- 
plished no small distance from the starting-point. 
What does this prove ? Not only that none of 
you can claim to be holders forth of what was held 
forth at the beginning, but that nothing ever was 
held forth that could continue to be held forth for 
many generations together. Men's thoughts broke 
out of it, whether they would or no. If, as all the 
churches (however they differ) teach, a sure doctrine, 
constant and equal to itself, is needful to Christianity, 
then the Bible, the Christian Revelation, is historically 
proved not to have furnished it. For such a purpose 
it has failed. That, it will be said, is proved. And 
the suggestion follows, that the Bible itself is a de- 
velopment, the remarkable birth of its own age, due 
to the forces and tendencies which were working in 
the world during the ages which produced it. The 
same development, with its mixed results, has been 
going on ever since ; only hampered and marred by 
the idea that men were bound to adhere to an un- 
changing doctrine, which in fact they have never 
done, which in fact they never can do. 

So much for this apprehension of the history of 


doctrine as exhibiting a process of development. You 
see it may be taken in different ways. Dr. Newman 
says, Unquestionably Christian doctrine has been 
gradually developed ; that was intended, and a proper 
authority was appointed to ensure that what is so de- 
veloped should be divine truth. Another says: Yes, 
Christian doctrine has been developed ; it is a fruit of 
the exercise of reason ; exercised well in some cases, 
ill in others. We were meant to guide ourselves by 
our own reason ; and so far as reason has worked 
well in this department, let us walk by it. Another 
says : Yes, Christian doctrine, so called, is a develop- 
ment ; set aside a few simple articles that are rather 
facts than doctrines, and all the rest is an unwarrant- 
able parasitic growth. Let us reject all that. Another 
says : Yes, Christian doctrine turns out to be a human 
development, while it has all along held itself to be 
revealed truth ; this lets us see what a delusion the 
whole system is, in all its forms. 

So the various schools speak, suggesting the ques- 
tion : How far is there development of Christian 
doctrine ? and do the facts of its history really in- 
volve anything inconsistent with what we hold of 
the authority, completeness, and sufficiency of the 
word of God ? 

But I said that the same line of contemplation gave 
rise to another kind of assertion, having respect to the 
starting-point of the process, and bearing on the ques- 
tion of the right it had ever to begin at all. 

For the survey of the history brings too clearly 
before our eyes the infirmities that have attended 
men in this work, and the extravagances, excesses. 


and aberrations of which they have been guilty. 
There is quite enough of this to make it a plausible 
thino- to say : The whole labour has been a mistake 
from the beginning. Men were never intended, and 
they never had a warrant, to begin to deduce any 
doctrines at all such as make up these systems of 
yours. Men have gone wrong, because in this field 
there was no going right. Such is the argument; 
and an influence working in a deeper region tends to 
dispose men towards the same conclusion. Doctrine 
is just that department of the Christian's life and 
work in which is most emphatically and clearly 
brought into view an element of Christianity to which 
a great repugnance is cherished in many minds : I 
mean, the element of authoritative information re- 
garding things unseen, and our relations to them — 
information for which we are dependent solely on 
testimony. Doctrine, with its precise affirmations, 
brings this into view, not always wisely, — for divines 
are not always wise, — but always strongly. And 
in many minds a recoil follows. Men justify them- 
selves in rejecting this element, on this account, that 
it seems to remove religion from the firm ground 
of experience, of known moral relations verified by 
the understanding and the conscience, and to bring 
it into a region where it becomes arbitrary and ar- 
tificial. So a stand is made against doctrine, but 
in degrees, and from motives, as we have already 
seen, that are distinctly different. Sometimes we 
have the Christian man recoiling from what he 
thinks (justly, very likely) the over -subtle, over- 
dialectical, over-confident manipulation of the dogma- 


tist. He gets tired of watching him, and discussing 
questions of more and less with him, — all the more, 
because, as he discusses, he feels that he is getting — 
cannot but eet — dosfmatical himself. Therefore he 
falls back on a more general position, I will take the 
truth, he says, as it lies in the Bible ; but I do not 
believe that the Bible was intended to furnish material 
for any such definition, connection, elaboration, as 
make up your systems. Sometimes we have the 
opponent of every peculiarly Christian belief taking 
up the very same ground. The idea that any such 
positions and trains of teaching as the churches set 
forth can be validly got out of the Bible is, he says, a 
mere blunder of the divines — an equal blunder in all 
the schools, Protestant, Popish, Socinian. 

And the view of the Bible which is relied on in 
support of the position is this : Its language, it is said, 
in those passages where it seems to lend countenance 
to your doctrines, is not proper, but analogical — it 
was never meant to be strictly taken. No exact 
quantum of meaning was ever meant to be got out 
of it. You only kill the sense of it when you turn 
it into strict assertions, and link it into lengthened 
arguments. You ought never to have begun that 

Indeed, it is a very singular thing to mark how 
the progress of men's minds is influencing this depart- 
ment of men's thoughts. All thinking men have been 
growing, of late, in the perception of the power for 
good which the religion of the Bible has exercised in 
the world, and of the decisive influence which the 
appearance and testimony of Jesus Christ has exerted 


on the race. Unhappily this has not been attended, 
in many cases, by a disposition to receive Scripture 
teaching with a docile mind. But it has led many 
thoughtful men to make the effort, with great earnest- 
ness and pains, to wrest the Bible, as it were, out of 
the hands of the believing Church, — Le., to represent 
matters so as to enable them to say : It is not yours, 
but ours ; we understand it ; we have the key to the 
meaning of it ; we will show you how to use it. And 
one form in which this is done, is to undertake to 
show that, in drawing definite faiths from it, still 
more in drawing systems of faiths, the Christians 
have been only misusing and misconstruing it, so that 
it is time at last to show the bewildered Church 
how truly good the Bible is, and what it is truly 
good for. 

Finally, all these doubts regarding the general 
method of doctrine, regarding the success of the 
Church in setting forth what can be maintained, re- 
garding her right to have set forth anything at all, 
are brought to bear, of course, on the question of 

I do not propose to involve myself and you, in a 
course of half a dozen lectures, in the historical and 
controversial details which enter Into the discussions 
on which I have touched. But there is a topic sug- 
gested by them all which It may be useful to single 
out and dwell upon : How ought we to conceive the 
place and use of doctrine, considered as a function 
and a fruit of the Christian mind ? In what relation 
does it stand to the calling of the believer and of the 
Church ? How should the handling of it be con- 


ceived to arise out of the Christian calling ? And 
what uses and applications of it are suggested by the 
place we thus assign to it ? All the various argu- 
ments drawn from the history of doctrine, and all 
the conclusions indicated as to the competency of 
dogma, in any of its degrees or all its degrees, must 
be referred at last to some conception, either of the 
way in which doctrine ought to pertain to the be- 
liever and the Church, or else of the place that 
should be claimed for it as pertaining to them. 
Possibly, if we could fix a clear and sound perception 
upon these points, some of the applications made of 
the history of doctrine would vanish of themselves, 
and others would come into a form in which they can 
be more readily weighed and appreciated. What I 
propose to do in this matter, is not so much to con- 
struct an argument, as to offer a statement, in the hope 
that it may be such as will prove credible and useful. 

T propose to treat mainly of three points : first, of 
the utterance of doctrine as a function of the believing 
mind ; second, of development of doctrine ; thirdly, 
of creeds. But in order to treat of these, a prior topic 
must first come under consideration ; for the way in 
which doctrine ought to be drawn forth and used, 
depends on the manner in which it has been delivered 
by God. I shall therefore preface what I have to 
say on the three points named, by offering some con- 
siderations on the manner in which doctrine has been 
delivered, first in the Old Testament, and secondly in 
the New Testament. These will occupy the next 
two Lectures ; and the three topics which I just now 
named will follow in the fourth, fifth, and sixth. 

Lect. L] method. 33 

The discussions thus suggested have reference not 
to the matter, or the material merits, but to the form 
and formal qualities of doctrine. However, in treat- 
ing them, I speak from the position of a disciple 
of the Reformed theology, and I will frankly make 
the assumptions which that position implies, when- 
ever I have occasion. This is not only expedient 
with a view to avoid circumlocution ; it is necessary 
in order to avoid a discruise which would be dis- 
ingenuous. The views which I am to present on 
the somewhat abstract and formal topics I have 
specified, are presented as views which might ap- 
prove themselves to those who share my own 
position with reference to the material questions of 
theology. They appear to me to be coherent and 
credible, viewed from that position, and to supply 
a reasonable solution for questions which men in that 
position have to answer. If, in addition, they are able 
to commend themselves to any of those who occupy 
other positions, so much the better.^ 

1 Note M. 



THE attempt to represent the method in which 
doctrine is deHvered, in one great section of 
the Scriptures, Is apt to expose to a charge of pre- 
sumption which I would not wilHngly incur. It is 
in the line of our duty to seek to gather from Reve- 
lation whatever it contains ; but in proposing to re- 
present its method, one may seem to take the pre- 
sumptuous attitude of standing above the Scriptures, 
to survey and assign the manner of their teaching. 
And this all the more, when it is not a single book 
that is in view,^ — in which case one might deal with 
the manner and working of the human mind employed 
in its production, — not this, but the whole Old Testa- 
ment, where the common method, if it exists, is to 
be ascribed to the one Spirit, in whose wisdom holy 
men spoke and wrote. We do well to remember, 
then, that we are but gazing upward from below. 
Yet for this part of our task we have the advantage 
of a New Testament position from which to look.^ 

We read the Old Testament with the aid of New 
Testament light. Now, all that in this light becomes 
evident to us was not evident in the same manner to 
those to whom the Old Testament revelations were 

^ Note A. 

Lect. II.] DIVINE METHOD. , 35 

primarily made. Our present task is to consider how 
the Church was dealt with by its Lord during the times 
of the Old Testament, and how the communication of 
truth to believing minds was then measured and ad- 
ministered. Considering this, we are also at the same 
time to mark how the communications then made were 
fitted to become more luminous and significant to us 
in these latter days. In which connection I make this 
remark, viz. that we may be able in a good degree 
to determine the respects in which our Old Testament 
predecessors fell short of us in point of privilege, 
especially in this matter of knowledge. But we may 
not so well be able to estimate, or even at all to 
conceive, compensations made out to them in the 
practical course of God's dealings with them, by which, 
on some other side of their case, they were brought 
up again to a nearer and fuller participation of evan- 
gelical grace, than we can construe for them by any 
scheme that we can now lay down. Some part of 
their experience is our concern as well as theirs ; but 
their full experience and its full result was their own 
concern, and that of their covenant Lord, who took 
care of it. The impression of this is to be kept 
alive upon our minds throughout the present inquiry. 
Now the broad fact which first of all strikes us 
is, that God was pleased to make Himself known to 
His Church, not by a body of teaching delivered all 
at once, but progressively, by lessons which follow 
one upon another, evolved in due succession, as the 
times arrived at which they might be fitly given. 
There is obvious progress, multiplication of principles, 
increased complexity and fulness in the scheme, as we 


advance from the patriarchal to the Mosaic dispensa- 
tion, and, under the latter, as we descend to the period 
of the later prophets. It is all of a piece, indeed, 
the same key-note throughout, some great lessons 
sounding only louder and louder as time passes on. 
Yet at successive critical periods clear additions come, 
fresh and new as compared with anything given be- 
fore ; and then these are rehearsed, set in new lights, 
sent home with new impression, by the teachings and 
the providences of the periods which follow.^ 

Moreover, when we speak of progressive lessons, 
a distinction should be made. There might be a 
process of teaching by successive lessons, so delivered 
that each lesson should be abstract and general, — 
* doctrinal,' as we say, — coming as a maxim that shall 
be always applicable to that case as long as human 
knowledge subsists under its earthly conditions. It 
might conceivably have been so ; but such was not 
the divine method. From the first, God has dealt 
with men m tJie concrete. He has dealt with them 
about facts ; He has taught them through events, 
— those facts and events being the centre and the 
hinofe of His teachings. This method was suited to 
the end in view. For He was to reveal Himself, 
not merely as a God of magnificent attributes cap- 
able of abstract determination, and not merely as 
a God related to us according to general principles, 
capable of being measured and assigned, but as one 
in contact with us, as one with whom we become 
acquainted by experience, as one who makes Him- 
self personally known. He has come forth in a long 

1 Note B. 


succession of dealmgs with men. These have always, 
indeed, been prefaced or accompanied by His en- 
Hghtening word ; and they have been intrinsically 
consistent in their principle with a great and har- 
monious scheme of divine procedure. Yet for the 
most part, the revelation in each case has been de- 
signed to guide men aright with respect to the 
dealing presently in hand. So God has manifested 
Himself as the Living One ; as having a mind and 
a will, a purpose and a course, about those facts, 
those details, concerning which we also can have a 
mind or will, can form a purpose or take a course. 
As He unfolds His mind over against man's, and 
His will, and His purpose, and His course, men come 
into actual and definite contact with Him on every 
side of their being. 

It is of the greatest importance to mark this. For 
here is what should be recosfnised as fundamental 
in the Biblical exhibition of truth concerning God. 
The Bible recognises and dwells on the manifestation 
of God in nature : its ordered and stable forces, with 
their wonderful effects, are all referred to Him, for 
all are His servants. The Bible recognises and 
dwells on the manifestation of God in conscience ; 
it turns a vivid light on the handwriting there, that 
intensifies every line and every character. It makes 
us feel how unchangeably God is the God of moral 
distinctions, the righteous Lord who loveth righteous- 
ness. However, the way which it takes to bring 
us acquainted with the certainty and the glory of 
God's being, in both these forms of manifestation, is 
to add another. When I have nothing but the abid- 


ing forces and principles of nature operating in their 
stedfast order, it is hard for me to be assured or 
persuaded that there is anything here but an eternal 
system, of which I must make the best I can. It has 
a meaning, but not necessarily any meaning that 
aims at me ; it may have quite other aims stretching 
far away. I may have a meaning, viz. to rnake the 
best I can of it ; but I am left in doubt whether this 
meaning and aim of mine is anything more than my 
solitary and private plan, which I am allowed to 
carry out as long as the great plan does not involve 
the crushing of mine. Again, when I realize the 
law of conscience, I advance to a higher region ; and 
yet here also it is hard for me to be assured that I 
have to do with anything more than some mysterious 
principle that makes righteousness a source of strength 
and peace, and unrighteousness a source of disquiet 
and ill. It is another great and very inward element 
coming into the plan and reckoning of my life, im- 
posing on me a new constraint, and opening to me 
a new kind of good. I do not say that this is a 
small thing ; I do not think it is. But I say it may be 
hard for me to be assured and stedfastly persuaded 
that conscience implies anything more. There is 
an immediate suggestion, indeed, that there is some- 
thin^ more : there is a cravinof in the soul that stretches 
out its hands and lifts up its heart for more ; a per- 
suasion thrills through me that there must be more ; 
I name the great name of God. But this — God — how 
much is He more than the principle of a stedfast order, 
than the maintainer of an influence that establishes 
right ? How far is there, in all this, any meaning that 


takes account of me, and of my meaning, and effort, and 
result ? How far any voice to speak, any ear to hear ? 
The Biblical answer is not merely to reveal per- 
manent principles concerning the relation of God to 
His works, and to His moral creatures. It does 
reveal such. But it establishes and prepares that 
conviction by exhibiting God, from the first, in an- 
other attitude. This God of the stedfast order of 
nature, this God of the persistent and inextinguishable 
admonition of conscience, is seen with His mind in 
motion, Himself in motion towards me, in a manner 
that betokens a meaning, a purpose, a counsel bearing 
on me. The meaning need not be clear at first, cer- 
tainly not in all its scope. The great thing is, that 
some particular meaning and purpose, here, now, at 
this place, at this time, comes into manifestation — em- 
bodied in fact, event, transaction. Instantly the whole 
aspect of the heavens is transformed. God is one 
entering into communion with me, into transactions 
in which He has part and I am to have part, tending 
to a result, to which, and in which, His meaning and 
my meaning shall go hand in hand. Instantly nature 
and conscience become luminous with a faith. The 
great world has far-stretching meanings, and bearings 
which I cannot estimate ; but there is a meaning for 
me, — a divine presence and intention with which I am 
to have fellowship, not merely a set of commandments 
of which I must make what I can. And this persua- 
sion is continually recruited and reinforced as I recog- 
nise Him who is in nature and in conscience, coming 
forth in acts and deeds that are more than the order 
of nature, and more than the monition of conscience ; 


that involve the utterance of a purpose and meaning 
circumstantiated to the case of a man who is moving 
through his experiences, and seeks a heart to rest on, 
and an arm to cHng to. 

This is the Biblical foundation, or implication, of 
God's personality. And this it is that draws after it 
the whole idea and exhibition of the supernatural. 
The whole question of miracle, so idly debated, runs 
up to this. And the question is, first, whether man 
is a being who, besides being adapted to deal with 
nature and to live by conscience, has in him that which 
is fitted for a further experience, and is unsatisfied 
without it — something that craves for communion with 
one above him ; and secondly, whether there is any- 
thing in the divine nature that makes it impossible or 
unfit that God should draw into historical communion 
with man, by dealings that determine a meaning on 
his part additional to that which nature and con- 
science disclose. If, then, history viewed in its 
ordinary aspects, the common history of men and 
nations, be, as it is, a revelation of man, into this 
history has been entwined another, along which is 
evolved the Revelation of God.^ 

God, then, has been pleased to reveal Himself in a 
historical way, so that we see succession and growth 
in the Revelation, as it is achieved along a line of 
transactions and events. Now, what we possess in 
point of fact is mainly the Revelation of God to a 
fallen race, connected with His carrying on a great 
work of redemption. The circumstances of a fallen 
race suggest some special justification for the adoption 

i Note C. 


with respect to them of a method so progressive, and 
made to turn on successive events. But we have no 
right to assume that the method is exclusively adapted 
to this state of things, or that it could not be suitably 
applied to another. We know, indeed, very little of 
the unfallen state. Beyond the fact that man was 
then unfallen, in God's image, what we gather about 
it is mainly collected by way of inference from the 
representations given us both of the effect of the fall, 
and also of the method and aim of man's recovery. 
Divines have been often tempted to overpress these 
inferences to a too confident particularity of deter- 
mination. Man, standing in the image of God, cer- 
tainly had (according to the Scripture indications) in 
his intelligent nature, his unperverted affections, his 
unpolluted conscience, the germs of, and the prepara- 
tion for, glorious attainments in knowledge, as he 
should walk with God, and as he should survey the 
world in which God's goodness placed him. But 
what he had attained in knowledge is quite another 
question. This we gather, that he was forthwith 
called to enter on a practical history, a life of 
earthly works. These were to constitute the body, 
of which his spiritual life was to be the soul. The 
special revelation made to him concerned one of the 
created things near him, and called for obedience to 
a plain outward injunction. That was the suitable 
way of beginning. This may suggest to us what is 
in itself credible on all accounts, that to be taught and 
trained after this historical fashion is proper to our 
race, not merely as sinful, but as human. ^ 

1 Note D. 


However this may be, and whatever might have 
been the course of trainlno- suitable for a race of men 
preserved from sin, in point of fact, things took 
another course. And so besran the evolution of law 
and grace over against sin, — that long strange story 
of the ways of man and of the ways of God, of which 
we are ourselves a part. 

In this history various elements may be traced, 
each proceeding in its own distinguishable line, while 
each combines with all the others.^ That w^hich 
principally concerns us is the course of divine revela- 
tions, whether by divine words or by divine trans- 
actions. With respect to this, we are entitled, I think, 
to regard the information contained in the Scriptures 
as practically complete. We should not, indeed, be 
warranted in assuming that no word of God visited 
the earth, except those which have found a record in 
the Scriptures. We might not be justified in assert- 
ing that no divine communication reached Adam, or 
Enoch, or Noah, except those which are there set 
down. But it seems asfreeable to all we know of 
Scripture, and of the principles on which it has been 
constructed, to believe, that if there were any such, 
they corresponded, at each stage, to those which have 
been recorded, and were of the same character. 
They were in their nature subordinate and accessory ; 
and if they had been recorded, they would not have 
revolutionized the impression of the divine order and 
method of revealing which we receive from the Scrip- 
tures as they stand. ^ 

It appears to me that there were three great themes 

' Note E. ^ Note F. 


which from the first were very vividly presented, and 
which continued to be made matter of teaching 
throughout the Old Testament ; viz. the character of 
God, the malignity of sin, the hope of coming good 
and deliverance. 

As regards the manifestation of God, we may 
distinguish, on the one hand, the revelation of that 
absolute love of right, and upholding of it, which He 
unites with His eternal power. The sense of this 
stedfast character of God was to grow into that 
burning consciousness of the divine rectitude, which 
glows so magnificently in the Prophets and the 
Psalms. On the other hand, growing principally out 
of the instances in which definite transactions bring 
Him near to men, we have the assertion of His 
majesty, as having absolute right to be obeyed ; and 
we have the disclosure of His interest in men and in 
their history, — that wonderful interest which sin does 
not extinguish, which is big with purposes of kind- 
ness, and which binds itself to effect them. These 
last are the attributes which grow into the great 
names of mercy, faithfulness, and truth. Although 
the teaching is nowhere dogmatic in form, yet these 
views of God are so clearly involved in the manifesta- 
tions made, that we may well say, so much doctrine 
concerning God began to be unfolded and conveyed 
into the minds of men ; confirmed, so far as the light 
of nature might have suggested then ; delivered, so far 
as nature fell short of such suggestion. It would be 
finical to say that so much was not doctrinally held.^ 

These disclosures and impressions concerning God 

1 Note G. 


were very specially implicated with what appeared 
upon the other two points which I have mentioned. 
First, the malignity of sin, brought out on the one 
hand by the experience of the doom which it entailed, 
and the peculiar manner in which men had to deal 
with God and approach God about it ; brought out, 
on the other, by making it evident with what extra- 
ordinary power and dominion it laid hold of the 
race, and pervaded it. Here is the beginning of 
the peculiar Biblical view of the condition of man 
as fallen and depraved ; and a consciousness of it is 
preserved, one way or other, in all the succeeding 
stages. This may be marked as an article of doctrine 
too : not that there was detailed teaching on the 
intrinsic nature and precise effects of man's depravity ; 
but that the impression conveyed to teachable minds 
was sufficiently direct and distinct to secure a convic- 
tion we may well call doctrinal, of the actual dominion 
of sin in the race of man.^ 

With respect to the hope of good and deliverance, 
that started from the promise of the woman's seed, 
and was upheld by the manifestations of God as 
dealing with man and men, moving on (as time 
moved) to dealings not yet exhausted, bringing bless- 
ings not yet disclosed. What the goodness of God 
meant by the promise of the woman's seed, we know 
by the event. That seed was Christ. How much 
the promise was fitted or able to convey to the minds 
of men situated as those were who lived in early days, 
is not so easily settled.^ I do not know that the 
conviction was at first necessarily more than this, that 
1 Note H. 2 Note I. 


in the line of the woman's seed God was to bring 
them a kind of deliverance and success such as they 
needed, such as it became Him in His greatness and 
His goodness to confer. But this, like other divine 
beginnings, was to have its great contents unfolded 
by many a following revelation. 

These seem to be the fundamental notes, so to say, 
in the harmony of doctrine as It began to be delivered. 
These points are exhibited with sufficient distinctness 
to warrant us in speaking of them as doctrines taught ; 
but the effect produced would be more fully described 
by saying that a certain kind of impression. In these 
different departments, was produced upon believing 
and docile minds, capable of being indefinitely intensi- 
fied, widened, and deepened as time went on. 

Now observe how earthly experience is made to 
build up the history, and to furnish the material of the 
impressions which are to be produced. Thus, the in- 
stances by means of which the evil and the doom of 
sin are made palpable to the sinning race, stand in 
elements of this world. Sorrow and death — sorrow 
which mars, and death which ends, the 'goodness of 
the Lord in the land of the living,' — these are the ex- 
pressions of the tendency of sin, and of the displeasure 
of God against it. So also the hope of redemption is 
brought out in a manner which fixes the expectation 
upon the earthly scene, and the succession of earthly 
events. It is the woman's seed in whom victory 
and deliverance are to be made good. The eye 
is directed along the succession of human genera- 
tions, and taught to look for victory and deliverance 
emerging palpably in the earthly history. 


At the same time, let us remember that it is the 
human conscience, with its capacities of shame, dismay, 
remorse, that is confronted and dealt with through 
these instances. And let us especially remember, that 
that with which human conscience is confronted, is 
God Himself, the living one. For, in truth, the more 
we mark how elements of this world are the things on 
which the attention of those early scholars was fixed, 
the more must we remember that the central and 
vitalizing element of these early revelations, as of all 
revelations, is God in them, manifested ; God's de- 
finite interposition, dealing with men to fixed and 
known effects, — doing so in the competency of an 
absolute authority and a supreme will, — doing so also 
in the consistency of that holy character, according to 
which He loves righteousness and hates evil, yet is 
long-suffering and of great compassion. This is the 
essential element, which gives life and meaning, which 
gives height and depth, to everything else. This is 
what vitalizes and calls into play those capacities 
in man which place him in relation to God as made 
in God's * image ; ' and this makes the suggestions 
derived from these earthly instances so momentous, 
so far-reaching, so profitable. Meanwhile, the cast of 
the transactions in which this God calls men to meet 
with Him, furnishes new types by which to conceive 
their relation to Him {i.e. types such as nature could 
not indicate), and directs to new issues towards 
which their dealings with Him should go forward. 
The principles on which He proceeds are not ex- 
plained, and they are such as men were quite unable 
to measure or assign beforehand ; but as those dealings 


go on, a growing assurance might arise that they are 
worthy of God, and harmonious with all that conscience 
sanctions as fit to be ascribed to God's majesty. 

It is a question on which men have been very much 
divided, how much perception of evangelical relations, 
or of the provisions of an evangelical scheme, ought to 
be ascribed to men in these earliest periods of religious 
history. But anxiety in reference to exact determina- 
tions on this point may be reasonably quieted, if full 
effect be given in our minds to the position of a be- 
liever in those days, in relation to the sources of im- 
pression which have been referred to already. Con- 
ceive a man under the vivid impression of God as the 
God of nature, ruling everywhere, the God of right, 
upholding right within him and without, and as God 
dealing with him, or with his representatives, in par- 
ticular, historical, progressive transactions. Conceive 
him aware of and impressed with the malignity of 
sin, as it involves the race and has involved himself, 
and yet conscious of being led to desire and seek God 
as the righteous one, to desire to be drawn back into 
that element again. Conceive him looking forward 
to the issues of a process of'dealing, in which God's 
goodwill is leading him and his fellows onward to 
some deliverance that is to be worthy of God, and is 
to be real deliverance, in God's goodness, from sin 
and death, — and you have surely all the elements of 
an evangelical attitude and an evangelical experience. 
The God with whom such a man deals is God in 
Christ. The voice that sounds in his ears, is of one 
saying, Lo, I come. 

It is this chiefly, I think, which prepares us to 


appreciate the further course which things now take, 
when the next great step comes round in the call of 
Abraham, and the cluster of revelations connected 
with it. A good deal may be made, unquestionably, 
of this, that men move forward to it under the in- 
fluence of all the previous lessons, which it is 
reasonable to think were within their knowledge, as 
they are within ours ; such as the lesson involved in 
the history of the fall — the lesson of God watching 
and judging the developments of sin — of God's good- 
ness, not only in the constant supply of common 
blessings, but in His cherishing and carrying forward 
far-reaching purposes of mercy towards the world. 
But here surely lies the very spring of life in the 
Abrahamic revelations and experiences, viz. God, the 
God of nature, the God of conscience, the God of 
all previous dealings with the wayward race ! God, 
calling Abraham out from country and kindred, under- 
took to be a God to him, his God — to make him and 
his a seed of blessing in the earth ; to be his friend, in 
a word, in an alliance offensive and defensive.^ Here, 
no doubt, was immense and wonderful good, to be en- 
tertained with wonder and gladness. Here was sure 
resource, to be confided in and reposed upon with per- 
fect trust. But what was it to mean in particular ? 
What kind of births and fruits were indicated as like 
to spring of it, on which the mind was to fasten, 
in them to realize more particularly the goodwill on 
which it had so sure a hold ? It was explicated into 
two promises — the promise of the land, the promise 
of the seed : a land in which Abraham was to sojourn 

1 Note J. 


under God's care, but which was to come into actual 
possession long after his day; and a seed which, 
after long waiting, came at last in one precious 
son, but which was to be multitudinous as the stars 
of heaven, and was to involve and comprehend the 
blessing for all nations. 

Of this land, we know that faith, disciplined through 
many an experience about it, was to find it in the end 
to be nothing worse than the better country, that is, 
the heavenly. And of this seed, we know that faith 
was to find it to be nothing less than the very Word 
incarnate, born to the hope and the travail of many 
a waiting and longing soul. To discern and show 
how this ' whole of good ' was expressed and made 
out to those who in early days lived by faith, in what 
sense they saw it and tasted it, has been a recurrent 
problem in New Testament times. The faith of Old 
Testament believers, no doubt, clung to the very 
words of God, and to the immediate thoughts which 
those words inevitably suggested, not to inferences 
at all subtle or remote. In order to establish the 
identity of the faith of God's children in all ages, and 
the persistent sameness of their life in God, the at- 
tempt has been made to construct, as it were, for the 
Old Testament believers a perspective, along which 
they should be conceived to look, and discern the 
very end, remote but clear, to which those things 
reached that presently were near them. I should 
rather think that the result was reached by turnino- 
back, by reverting to the foundation promise, ' A God 
to thee.' The fulness of that promise overflowed 
into each of the particular instances, and set it in its 



proper light. A land was given — an actual land, with 
hills and valleys, corn and wine, — with practical 
qualities, such as farmers could take account of; but 
it was a land provided by God — a land in which God 
should dwell with them, a land in which He should 
carry on His dealings with them as one who gives 
His people inheritance. A seed was given them — 
a seed multitudinous and mighty ; but a seed raised 
up by God, given by God, to be made by Him the 
seat of blessing, and the tie between heaven and 
earth. ^ This was the element in the case that 
opened up the indefinite possibilities, that disclosed 
the certainty of unspeakable good. And then, trial 
and need, sharpening their discernment, raised new 
questions, suggested new answers, trained the heart 
to a nearer approximation to God's thought. That 
land, and that seed, took their meaning from that 
God. ' O God, Thou art my God.' 

It is important to attend to the genius and way of 
working of this method of dealing with men. In- 
stances, we have said, arising in their earthly experi- 
ence, were made the occasion of divine transactions 
with them, and so built up the scenes of their life, and 
furnished their deepest and most lasting impressions. 
Now an idea is often entertained, that the main 
business of believers in those days, so far as regards 
the exercise of their minds, was to make use of the 
dispensations of God, by drawing analogical or typo- 
logical inferences from them. So we are to conceive 
them arriving at the contemplation of the permanent 
principles applicable to the relations of men as sinners 

1 Note K. 


and as believers ; so we are to conceive them get- 
ting sight of the future benefits of the redemption 
that was to be achieved. And so, also, their benefit 
or profit is supposed to be measured by the degree 
in which they discerned the symbolical or typical 
reference of the arrangements in which they were 
involved, by the degree of skill they had in read- 
ing their picture Bible. ^ Surely to think so would 
be a great mistake. They found themselves dealing 
with God about some earthly thing, which God 
had been pleased to make the matter of promise, 
and the occasion of practical transactions. It was the 
possession of a land, let us say. It was no more than 
a temporal thing. Well, temporal things are of great 
weight and moment in the exercise and discipline 
of us the children of time. But, moreover, the land 
claimed their interest, and called out their concern 
about it, in a way that was quite peculiar, because 
God had made it the instance and token of His good- 
will. Here was the great thing, that it was with 
God the Living One they had to do about it, — 
with Him, so great, so pure, so true — so present, 
yet so arduous to be dealt with ; they had to close, 
to walk with Him, to trust Him. In making good 
their hold on God about these earthly and tem- 
poral things, in many a trying conjuncture, in many a 
time of fear without, and of burdened heart and con- 
science within, they were by God's wise disposal cast 
into such exercises of mind about the blessing, into 

^ Or it is assumed by opponents, that the identity or continuity of Old 
Testament faith with that of the New Testament can only be brought 
out on some such theory, which is then made a means of assault. 


such attitudes and postures of faith, into such a con- 
sciousness of who and what God is, and how related to 
them, that in deaHng with Him about that particular 
benefit, they did at the same time grasp and embrace 
the substantial benefits of the everlastinor covenant. 
That is to say, they realized God as theirs in such a 
manner, and with such an impression of what He is 
in promise and covenant, that they rested on His 
present mercy all their want, and they looked to the 
future and coming mercy as mercy that should express 
and bring to light the whole goodness of a pardoning 
and life-giving God. 

I do not doubt that by types and figures, appre- 
hended to be such, men might discern somewhat of 
the spiritual benefit to which they pointed. And 
much more frequently, men might reason analogi- 
cally, from the earthly instance of God's care to the 
higher form of blessing which they must seek from the 
same goodness.^ But no doubt, in many a case, the 
faith of believers, in the exercise that arose about 
those earthly things, grasped implicitly the spiritual 
blessing along with the earthly good thing, without 
ever in their minds making distinction between them, 
or opposing them to one another, as type or antitype. 
That is to say, they laid hold of that in God which is 
the substance and heart of the evangelical blessing, 
even when their whole soul was absorbed in dealing 
ariorht with Him about those thingrs in which their 
connection with Him for the present was illustrated 
and expressed. 

^ According to the apostle's logic : * He that hath done so, how shall 
he not much more,' etc. 

Lect. II.] MORE TO FOLLOW. 53 

Out of these elements an amazing multiplicity and 
complexity of teaching, or at any rate of training, 
was made to emerge. A great variety of relations 
to God, and of intercourse with God corresponding 
to those relations, was brought about. Hence the 
principles brought Into play became In the highest 
degree Instructive ; and the mental exercises of 
awakened men placed under that dispensation be- 
came singularly vivid and searching. The principles 
brought Into play were, ultimately, those same which 
regulate the ways of God with men, through Christ, 
under all economies. Still, they were brought out 
commonly in the concrete, not in the abstract. What 
found expression as distinct objects of mental con- 
templation and discernment, were mainly the various 
elements of the divine character : God's almightlness. 
His fidelity, His Indignation at sin. His delight in 
righteousness. His mercy to those who sought and 
feared Him. For the rest, God's dispensations 
moved on, — conforming, Indeed, to the principles 
which were to prove constituent of the gospel, and 
regulative of God's administrations in relation to it, 
but rather embodying these principles than revealing 
them. They stood before men embodied in im- 
pressive instances, yet so that the effect might be 
felt, rather than that the principle could be doctrlnally 
disentangled and discerned. 

Nor must we lose sight of the expectant attitude of 
the Church, and the progressive character of God's 
revelations. God was moving on, and the Church 
with Him — ever moving on. Believers were never 
allowed to think that they had come to the end of 


what God had in hand. There was more to be said, 
and more to be done. Men were thrown on the 
future for the full opening up of all that was iii the 
mercy promised, and of all that bore proportion to 
man's need, and to the character of Him whom they 
were learning to know in many a particular as the 
Lord God, merciful and gracious. Their whole posi- 
tion trained them to feel that they should say not 
merely ' All this is true,' but ' All this, and more.' 
Hence quite another character, and a higher efficacy, 
accrue to much that seems to us imperfect and ele- 

It is well for us to strive to apprehend, along lines 
of thought like that now indicated, how it was that 
' elements of this world,' as the apostle says, could be 
employed so freely, so constantly, as the material by 
means of which men were trained to the knowledge 
and service of God. And thus, also, we shall under- 
stand how rich mio^ht be the virtual knowledge of 
God, and how living and various the impressions, 
while there was comparatively little of explicit or 
exact doctrine. 

Those elements of this world supplied a plat- 
form on which the intercourse between God and 
His children might go on. But they did more. 
They constituted a scaffolding within which the 
house might grow up, conformed on every side to 
its intended plan, and yet ultimately separable from 
it. But they were more. They were the very matters 
about which, for the time then present, God was 
dealing with men by word and deed, — palpable, 
historical, circumscribed in time and place, — occasion- 


ing the most practical thoughts and feelings. But 
they were such, and so arranged, that the faith in 
God, and the walk with God about these, learned 
the very goings of the faith that receives and holds 
eternal life. 

Considerations such as these are very necessary to 
be kept In view when we go on to that great and 
very remarkable stage In the divine dealings — the 
Mosaic legislation and economy. The Abrahamic 
covenant, without this vast and elaborate appliance, 
administered by simple providential dispensations of 
fatherly goodness and fatherly chastisement, was suit- 
able for a time. But when the family grew into a 
nation, it became suitable to take other methods.^ 
And so came In that dispensation of law, significantly 
appealed to In the Epistles to Romans, Galatians, 
Hebrews, and elsewhere, which constitutes so large 
a part of the Old Testament economy, which entered 
so imperiously and prevailingly Into the life of every 
Jew; which gave a character so unique, and In some 
respects so difficult to trace out, to the discipline and 
the exercise of Old Testament believers. I hardly 
need remind you how interpreters and expounders of 
theology, in its relation to the various economies, 
have laboured in Illustrating the relation of the 
various parts of this system to the permanent prin- 
ciples of Law and of Gospel, nor how capable of 
intricate and difficult discussion some of the questions 
which here arise have proved to be. Into this wide 
field I shall not, of course, attempt to go. I will 
attempt no discussion of the way In which this whole 

1 Note L. 


system was fitted to make due application of the 
principles of Law and Gospel to the case of men 
living under that dispensation. In this department 
it is probable, after all that has been done, that some- 
thing yet remains to be performed. I shall hold it 
enough to say, that we are sure of many things we 
cannot particularly explain, and can confidently refer 
various elements of the system to their proper heads 
as cases or illustrations of great principles, where we 
cannot show, as yet, that these were all fitly placed in 
that remarkable system, so as to make a complete 
and harmonious whole, whether of teaching or im- 
pression. We are sure, from the New Testament 
and from the nature of the case, that in these arrange- 
ments the Divine Ruler was reaching on towards the 
pattern and the principles of things afterwards to be 
disclosed. And whatever difficulties there may be 
about a complete adjustment of the whole scheme, 
there is no difficulty in seeing a singularly solemn and 
awakening declaration of law, and a very constant 
application of it, — so that the purity and majesty of 
God, the rule of righteousness, the intolerable offen- 
siveness of sin, are brought out in the most vivid and 
solemn way ; nor is there any difficulty In seeing 
suggestions, embodiments, shadows, figures of the way 
of salvation by Jesus Christ, the crucified, such as it 
is vain to cavil at and impossible to overlook. 

And yet, while there is so much in the law that 
irresistibly suggests to us principles of which the true 
and permanent embodiment is in the things that do 
not pass away, the letter of the law is even singularly 
void of anything to dispose or encourage the Israelites 


to look beyond it to something further. They are sent 
on their way with a significant if sounding in their 
ears : ' If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my 
covenant' It is a covenant with stringent conditions, 
and with an elaborate mechanism for carrying out the 
details of administration and observance. And there 
is a marked abstinence from any indications that 
should lead the subject beyond these ordinances 
themselves. There is nothing to suggest that they 
existed not for their own sakes, but with a disciplinary 
and administrative purpose, as shadows of things not 
yet seen. This holds both of those requirements 
which seem purely legal, and of the ordinances which 
most obviously shadow forth the gospel way of atone- 
ment and reconciliation. With the sharpest distinct- 
ness, with the minutest specification, rule follows rule. 
All is given forth as if only the present were in view ; 
as if the provision for the present regulation of the 
Israelite's life were exhausted in those minute me- 
chanical provisions. 

For, indeed, the object seems to have been to com- 
pel the people to realize in the sharpest and hardest 
way certain conditions, certain actual palpable relations 
to God. It seems to have been intended that they 
should be pressed right upon the edge of the most 
definite rules, and compelled to feel how, according to 
these, they stood related to God, or to God's service, or 
to God's congregation, or to God's promise. I say 
according to these definite rides, most literally. That 
was the first thing. Not according to certain remote 
and lofty principles, inferred by analogy, and appre- 
hended in a dim uncertain way, were they to con- 


ceive their case ; but according to peremptory rules, 
that come hke a bar of iron into the commonest 
matters of every day's concern. We know how 
prone men are now to rest in the most vague con- 
ception, or no conception, of their relation to the 
unseen realities, even in this noonday of the gospel, 
after all the light that has been poured upon them, and 
all that is fitted to give them a constraining grasp upon 
the conscience. What, then, would have been the 
condition, in those days, of the men placed under that 
economy, had they been allowed or left to feel their 
way towards some dim and distant principle to which 
they should conceive themselves subject, by which 
they should be bound to be guided ? Far otherwise 
was it ordered. A great Schoolmaster delivered them 
to laws. A man was made to feel himself definitely 
clean, or else unclean. H is obligations, various, precise, 
minute, were made out to him most definitely. The 
responsibilities he incurred by mishap or by transgres- 
sion were mapped and tabulated in stringent form ; 
and that which vitalized the system, and lifted it 
above the rank of mere weary ceremonial, was not 
first of all the apprehended reference to further truths, 
but it was the God, the mighty God of Israel. To 
Him the Israelite found himself bound in these chanof- 
ing relations, in respect of small matters indeed in 
many cases, but always to a great and terrible God 
— the God of nature — the God of conscience — 
the God who had made the history of His people 
singular with signs and wonders, and who had it 
in hand still to carry it on. He might not see 
the reasons ; he might not see to the end of that 


which was to be aboHshed. But as he found him- 
self now near, but with risk of falling and being 
repelled, now excluded, but with a possibility of draw- 
ing near again by fixed provisions, — now clean, and 
now unclean, — now having to seek his sacrifice with 
all the qualities that must peremptorily attach to it, 
now offering it with the due succession of ordered 
rites, — a conception was formed in his mind, a 
praxis was drilled into the habit of the man, as to 
various forms of relation, various attitudes, various 
exercises toward God. And when the great reality 
of the Divine Existence filled his soul, then it over- 
flowed in the inquiry after more in God, or in the 
apprehension and assertion of more in God, than 
the mere letter gave him, — after a nearness that was 
more than ceremonial, and a forgiveness that opened 
the way to more than an earthly temple, and a cleans- 
ing that reached deeper than only to the outer man ; 
and the hope of his fathers became luminous, as he 
apprehended it to include some solid core of blessing, 
able to give rest to all these desires, and to satisfy them 
to the full. 

But we cannot say that the array of doctrine towards 
which this system of ordinances pointed, and which in 
some sense it embodied, was as yet explicitly delivered. 
In order to disclose the meaning which it bore in that 
respect, it awaited a light that was not yet come. ^ 

On the other hand, the heads of teaching which I 
spoke of before as brought into prominence, — God' — 
sin— the hope, — continue to receive accessions of light, 
but not in equal degrees. The fundamental and per- 

^ Note M. 


manent lines of the doctrine of human duty, and its 
relation to God's authority and will, and to His charac- 
ter as Judge of all the earth, are here laid down with 
the utmost clearness, to be filled up by an ample 
prophetic commentary in succeeding times. There is 
also a remarkable growth in the elements from which 
impressions might be drawn as to what is implied in 
the forgiveness of sin. With all the fresh light upon 
the immutable righteousness of God, and on the evil 
of sin, the truth that there is, notwithstanding, forgive- 
ness with Him, stands out clear and bright ; and the 
conception of sacrificial atonement as the way in which 
it should be sought and received, is wrought into the 
whole texture of Israel's thoughts and life. Then, as 
to the coming Hope, among other influences which 
tended to establish in the minds of men a central object 
in the midst of those bright expectations of diffused 
good which might be based upon the Abrahamic 
covenant, there was that notable promise of the great 
Prophet, whom God should raise up, and to whom 
Israel should hearken. 

But the great means and occasion of giving vivid- 
ness and development to the Messianic promise was 
to be provided at a later stage. For, following on the 
law came a great succession of providences, exercising 
the people by judgment and mercy in the knowledge 
of themselves, and in the knowledge of Him with 
whom they had to do, — in the knowledge of what it 
was to serve their Kinof, and to walk with Him. And 
then the next great step onward in the ways of God 
was the setting up of the monarchy in David's house, 
accompanied as it was with new arrangements for the 


Stability, order, and splendour of God's worship. The 
king's function, ideally, was to provide and maintain 
righteousness and peace. And no sooner was the 
kingdom set up, than we have the beginning and point 
of departure of an immense series of oracles and pro- 
phecies, — some directly pointing to the coming One, 
the true and effectual King ; others shaping out, as it 
were, in various ways, the conception of what a King 
was needed for, and what sort of work God's true 
King must do. 

The history of the kingdom proved to be to a 
lamentable extent a history of failure, — kings that 
sought not the Lord, a people that were content to 
have it so. And with alternations of occasional 
prosperity and recovery, a long decay succeeded the 
glorious days of David and of Solomon. And still 
God was near — still His hand came in — still His 
voice was heard — still His presence felt. Strange 
people, that could not be done with God, nor God 
with them ! As the generations stretched out and 
passed away, how the question must have excited 
many a mind. What did God mean, then, what 
was His purpose, what was He to do, and what 
was He delaying for ? For surely the result and 
scope of the great promises were not to be found 
in the existing state of things. If God had given 
them up, that could have been understood ; but that 
was never so. The very specialty and severity of 
His judgments, as well as the signal mercy of His 
deliverances, marked them as a people whom He 
would not leave alone. 

But chiefly His presence began now to be mani- 


fested, and His influence felt, through the prophetic 
ministry ; one great effect of which was to make 
palpable and assured the mind and meaning of God 
in providence — so that the progress of providence, 
instead of wearing the aspect of a casual, impersonal 
thing, became instinct with the character and present 
purpose of God. And through the prophets, with 
the advancing development of God's ways, there 
came a more ample commentary upon them. The 
spiritual significance of the law was opened up, the 
place which God claimed in Israel's heart was vindi- 
cated. What God might be to them was made 
solemnly and pathetically plain in prophesyings, which 
drew upon the whole history of providence and of 
Revelation for its language and its imagery. And 
then, especially, turning to the future, what it was in 
God to be to His people was shown forth there. 
Often that future was dark with judgment ; but 
the ultimate issues were to be the fulfilment of the 
covenant. Things were not to be conformed to the 
likelihoods which men might gather from passing ap- 
pearances. Nor were all things to continue as they 
were. Nor was the decay that had fallen so sore on 
Israel to make God's promise vain. All should yet 
make way for the glory of the Lord. 

Generally the picture of the future is drawn in 
colours and forms supplied by the scenery of the 
present. The people and the land rise into view 
purged from the defect and wrong that marred their 
state ; and every element of good that Israel knew 
under that dispensation reappears with a strange 
brightness, and in a wonderful combination, expressive 


of peace, and grace, and of Jehovah's presence among 
His people. In this connection the assurance of 
Messianic blessing is presented, sometimes, as one 
may say, in a dispersed manner. Rule that is perfect 
in its administration, and secures its end ; priestly 
work proceeding fitly and gloriously, and sacrifice 
accepted and returning In blessing ; teaching that 
diffuses itself victoriously, and sways men from within ; 
a new heart and mind, making men capable of 
successful walking with God ; — these, or things like 
these, appear as Incidents or aspects of a better state 
of things which God's mercy shall yet bring round. 

But In various single passages, and In some whole 
tracts of prophecy, the personal Messiah rises into 
view ; still as bearing one or other, or all, of these same 
blessings, but with an emphasis that cannot be mis- 
taken, laid on the Individual person who brings in the 
better hope. The prophetic eye rests on a Form 
around which all the elements that make up Israel's 
wonderful history seem to gather,- — all the dark ele- 
ments of conflict, all the bright elements of promise. 
The coming good for Israel and for all nations is 
seen hanging on the raising up of One who is to have 
the sorrow, the conflict, and the glory of achieving it. 
He is One who Is to be raised up among the people; 
yet He is spoken of in terms that ascribe to Him 
an origin and a dignity not inferior to the Highest. 
Sometimes He Is brought into view with great de- 
liberation, and with a broad light shining on the 
scene. Sometimes He is only suddenly descried in 
the midst of scenes which give place, as it were for a 
moment, to let this brighter vision appear. Then 


the clouds descend again, and only the present or the 
immediate future is in siaht.^ 

At the same time another function was going 
on. Modes of utterance were graciously provided 
for the experience of believers — modes of utter- 
ance calculated to create and reproduce the experi- 
ence they uttered. This function is connected in 
the closest way with the prophetic function which 
I have just now referred to : for the one passes 
into the other. How much of prophecy is there 
in the Psalms ! and what bursts of prayer, and 
song, and meditation in the Prophets ! Those Psalms 
have been the guide and utterance of faith and love 
to this day. They are indeed unfathomed. No 
man has measured what may be in them. But look- 
ing at them, for the present, as provided for the utter- 
ance of the faith and love and penitence of men in 
those days, we see what thoughts were working in 
their minds, what feelings craved utterance, what im- 
pressions of God and of His ways were formed 
under the discipline through which they passed.^ 

Now from these materials also we see a continual 
growth and progress going on, and it takes shape to 
a certain extent in forms which may reasonably be 
called doctrinal. For instance, the fuller teaching 
about that fear and love of God in the heart which 
it is His nature to seek, and only in rendering which 
man truly meets Him ; the hope of the new covenant, 
with its peculiar characteristics ; the growing fulness 
in the reference to that form of God's presence and 
working which we associate with the special agency 
1 Note N. 2 jjote q. 


of the Holy Spirit. These are only Instances. They 
are sometimes brought in as necessities or blessings 
of the present, sometimes as hopes for the future, 
but at all events In a direct and explicit manner. 
And as I said but now. In looking forward to the 
Hope, the Image of the coming One not only becomes 
clearer and more striking, but fuller Intimations are 
given of the character In which He is to appear, 
and the manner In which He is to make His way 
to the possession of blessing, and to bring His people 
Into the experience of It. 

Still, many of these utterances could not be so de- 
finitely significant to the men who heard them as they 
are to us ; and, for the most part, the prophetic teach- 
ing was not adapted to supply men with much of that 
furniture of definite conclusions which we call doctrinal 
positions. It was a teaching couched commonly In 
the language drawn from the mechanism of the dis- 
pensation, and from current providences. It tended 
always to deepen, widen, and Illuminate men's 
thoughts of God ; and as the Illustration grew, both 
of the majesty of God's character, and also of the 
greatness and complexity of the purposes He had in 
hand concerning Israel, the sense of a growing preg- 
nancy In the whole scheme, and In every element of 
it, must have arisen in the minds of believing men, — 
a deeper sense than ever of mighty issues moving to 
their accomplishment, of many toiling agencies co- 
operant to some great result. But It would appear 
that the course which had to be taken in order to 
enjoy the benefits which were then attainable, was 
not so much to draw out in any clear forms the 


scheme of the divine administration, its principles 
and ends, but to brood intensely on the instances, 
always multiplying, by which Israel's God was known, 
and on the illustration they afforded of His ways and 
of His gifts. These might be, many of them, earthly ; 
yet the divine promise was charging them with a per- 
petuity and splendour of divine benefaction, which 
the future was hastening to disclose, and which was 
already brightening all the east. 

So, also, the devout experience of the Psalmist 
expresses, usually, just a direct recourse to God, 
Israel's God, as known and recognised through the 
providences and the machinery of that dispensation. 
For instance, though there are some clear references to 
a future state after death, yet commonly the Psalmist, 
looking to the future, looks down the line of the tem- 
poral promises. God, sin, righteousness, the need of 
it, the assertion of it, the vanity of outward sacrifices, 
the future fulfilment of God's covenant, the wonders 
of His law, the rest and refreshment of His worship, 
the blessedness of adhering to God, — all this is set 
forth with wonderful, because with inspired energy. 
Yet how these things were related tosj'ether, or how 
it could be all so singularly true and certain for men, 
was yet dark. 

There was, then, so much of what we may call 
doctrinal teaching on some great articles which we 
have noticed, as to give to believing men the right 
point of departure for their faith and love ; enough 
to give them a true conception of the drift of that 
divine process in which they were involved, a true 
impression of the meaning of the divine person with 


whom they were in contact. Nor was this teaching 
confined to those points of departure ; it advanced 
and grew in various particulars, so that more full 
and definite views appear to have been attainable, 
and to have been attained, as the teaching advanced. 
Yet all this is seen, as it were, rising out of, and 
returning into, a historical process. A history built 
up of elements of this world, institutions and provi- 
dences, is that which we see unfolded. In these, 
and about them, God is seen earnestly dealing with 
His people, and they are called earnestly to deal 
with Him. But then it is God more and more clearly 
revealed in the intense glory of His moral perfections, 
with whom they deal ; and the dealings are ordered 
so as to bring out more and more what is involved 
in having to do with such a God. And in these 
dealings God is moving on, with a sedulous intent 
which never relaxes — He is movino- on to what ? 
What is He preparing to do ? Perhaps the Israelite's 
best answer, after he had gathered all that was attain- 
able, was to say — More than all our thoughts have 
reached. Eye hath not seen it, ear hath not heard 
it, it hath not entered into the heart of man. 
. In saying all this, I am speaking still of what we 
may gather to have been the sense of the teaching 
for those who lived under it. Certainly, in every step 
of this very remarkable process, the Divine Revealer 
and Ruler had in view His own ultimate counsel, and 
all He did was congruous to that. Doubtless He 
was working on the principles, and embodying the 
principles which regulate His procedure in the dis- 
pensation of grace through Christ ; He was doing so 


In many a case in which not only the ancient saints 
could not discern it, but in which no New Testament 
student has discerned it either. Therefore I make 
not the least doubt that there are deep analogies 
underlying Old Testament arrangements and history 
which have never yet been found out ; and that 
Christ speaks in many a passage where we commonly 
do not hear Him. Christ speaks ; not because the 
inspired man supposed he was uttering the voice of 
the Messiah, but because the whole relation of the 
case was such that he could not speak at all what was 
fit for him to say in his position, without really utter- 
ing that which principally and properly belongs to 
Christ. It was God in Christ all through the Old 
Testament, and the footsteps of Christ coming are 
heard all along the way. But it is only in New 
Testament light that this is so clearly seen. Cer- 
tainly, we under the New Testament may acquire a 
facility in discerning something of the connection of 
the whole, and of the scope and aim of the details, as 
related to God's ultimate purpose. We have advan- 
tages for penetrating the divine meaning of which it 
is full. Yet not so, but that we find it still beyond 
us ; and we labour with a sense of unsatisfied desire 
to penetrate it more fully. We are fain often to find 
our way to the divine thoughts or the divine scheme, 
from the outside inwards, with a slow and falterine 
step. And we often turn aside and miss the true 
clue. So it has been from the besfinnino-. One of our 
earliest pieces of uninspired Christian authorship Is an 
attempt to assign the meaning of the Old Testament. 
It is not very successful ; and we are at the task 

Lect. II.] SUMMARY. 69 

Still/ However, the Old Testament is far from serving 
the purpose only of being spelt out into accordance 
with the New. It is the divine foundation of the New, 
and the proper preparation for it. The Church and 
the believer do well to be ever passing into the New 
Testament, by passing down through the Old ; and 
this not only because the Old supplies the historical 
antecedents, but because it supplies the historical 
propaedeutic. It gives us the tone ; it furnishes us 
with the mould and scheme of thought ; most of all, 
it gives us what God judged fit to be the initial dis- 
cipline in the knowledge of Him, and in the know- 
ledge of sin. It prepares us for the New Testament 
teaching, which is congruous to such a propaedeutic, 
which discloses the eternal verities that were latent in 
the ancient scheme, and formative of it throughout. 

What this rapid survey has suggested may now be 
summed up. 

We find in the Old Testament a progressive teach- 
ing. The essential elements are present from the first ; 
yet so that, beginning with simple elements, a visible 
amplification of the materials of knowledge takes place 
as we advance, and a progress is realized in the 
thoughts and the experience of the children of God. 
This was provided for by the series of divine revela- 
tions. God carried on the development by new steps 
of His providence, and new utterances of His will. 

We find the Old Testament teaching, all along, 
made to rise out of the history of Divine acts, and of 
transactions between God and men. These advance 
and accumulate ; and as they do so, the relation 

1 Note P. 


between God and men is seen to include more 
numerous elements, to present more varied aspects, 
to require for its explanation a more profound and 
complex body of principles. 

We find that, in these historical transactions, the 
objects especially brought into view, and made the 
matter of direct dealing between God and men, are 
elements of this world — earthly things, divinely chosen 
and ordained. It is in connection with these that God 
progressively brings out His character, and exhibits 
the tenor of His ways. These form the discipline 
under which men are trained, and they furnish the 
language and the lessons by which they are taught. 
This system, in its various departments of promise, 
providence, and ordinance or ceremonial, is charged 
throughout with a higher meaning. That is to say, 
it is pervaded by analogies to a system of things 
that does not pass away. But these analogies are 
far from being always understood by the men who, 
in those circumstances, learned to know God. 

We find that a large part of the benefit and use 
arising from this system to those who lived under it, 
arose from a disciplinary and moulding operation ; the 
instances of God's ways, and the experience of rela- 
tions to Him made good under the system, produced 
impressions, and formed modes of view and feeling, 
in which an evangelical relation to God was felt and 
realized, even when the principles on which it was 
made possible, and was provided, were very imper- 
fectly apprehended (if at all). 

We find that this scheme, manifestly pregnant with 
a great divine purpose, and becoming more manifestly 

Lect. II.] SUMMARY. 71 

SO as it advanced, comprehended in particular, from 
the very first, the word of promise, directing men to 
the future, and holding out a divine fulness of blessing 
connected with the seed which God was to raise up. 
One great effect of this, deserving notice as specially 
related to our subject, is, that in this way, men who 
lived by faith were always kept from thinking that 
their knowledge was complete, or that God's mind 
towards them could be adequately measured by any 
of His actual gifts. It became a duty to make all 
present teaching and all present experience the start- 
ing-point from which to look onward to greater things 
to come. 

All this understood, we hnd that in this training 
a place was given to teaching so permanent in its 
matter, so direct and unambiguous in its terms, and 
so precise in the convictions it was fitted to produce, 
that we may reasonably call it doctrinal. However, 
it is not given in any systematic form ; and it appears 
as rising out of the historical transactions, and out 
of the relations which they establish. It rises out 
of these, and returns into them again. The head of 
teaching, which is much the most fully illustrated in 
this form, is the character and glory of God. 

These conclusions are fitted to impress upon us 
one or two general views which shall close this 

One is, that there may be a real identity of faith 
{i.e. of acquaintance with God, realization of relation 
to Him, and expectation of good from Him, accord- 
ing to His covenant mercy), where there are great 
differences of detailed knowledge and of theoretical 


insight, — such differences as obtained between the 
eariiest and the latest Old Testament believers, or 
such as those which distinguish an Old Testament 
believer from one who uses well his advantages under 
the New. 

Another is, that all along, as we mark the inter- 
course of God with men, there is a much-more-ness 
in His mind, as embodied in His revelation and pro- 
ceedings, as compared with their mind, in dealing 
with the revelation, and engaging In the intercourse 
to which it called them. This much-more-ness is 
asserted not of God's mind as it is in itself merely, 
but as it is embodied in His present words and acts. 
Neither the thoughts, nor the prayers, nor the faith, 
nor the thanksgiving of God's people, have ever borne 
any proportion to the height, and depth, and length, 
and breadth of His thoughts which were towards 

A third is this : The Old Testament system of 
dealing with the Church implies a fuller revelation of 
doctrine in reserve, awaiting the Church at some 
future stage. It does so, because it presents an order 
of things which requires such a revelation as its close 
and complement. It presents a manifold system, 
under which men were held, and through the elements 
of which they were obliged to pass, — a system not 
explicable from mere natural religion, not explicable 
from the declared principles of the dispensation itself, 
—awaiting, therefore, some further light. It implied 
and embodied principles of the divine government, 
truths and facts as to the ways of God, relations 
between God and men existing or made good, which 

Lect. II.] SUMMARY. 73 

were not disclosed. Now this state of things war- 
ranted the expectation of a revelation of truth on the 
points thus left dark. To leave all unexplained, to 
break off the mode of dealing with men thus provided, 
and substitute some other wholly unconnected with it, 
would be an inadmissible course. It would be to 
deprive the later generations of all interest in and 
profit by the earlier revelation, as something wholly 
irrelevant to them. To complete it or continue it, yet 
so as to leave all unexplained, would be not merely 
to hold the Church in perpetual childhood, but to 
order things so that the conclusive mercy, whatever 
in that case it might have been, which wound up the 
series of God's dealings, should permanently veil the 
ways of God, and leave the Church in ignorance of 
the real nature of the way by which God led them, 
or the end to which He had brought them. But this 
could not be. The end in view is the revealing of 
God ; and the . Church's fellowship with God was 
designed to be in a growing understanding of Him 
and of His ways. 

Lastly, we find exemplified in the Old Testament, 
not only for Old Testament believers, but for ourselves, 
a manner of revelation of such a kind that, while much 
is instantly apprehensible, there are underlying prin- 
ciples necessary to a full solution of the questions that 
arise, to which we penetrate with difficulty. They are 
not furnished to us by way of direct definition, but 
must be gathered from instances and exemplifications ; 
and these are understood not by the intellect alone, 
but by a moral sympathy. Some of these we may 
expect to find passing all calculations of ours, reaching 


out where we cannot follow. So that the elements 
of Scripture appear to be, like the elements of God's 
creation, real and palpable, in contact with us, such as 
can be verified and applied to practice, made matter of 
thought, source of feeling, occasion of use ; and yet on 
some sides and aspects of them, down under our feet, 
and out on every side, and up to heaven, they stretch : 
we measure them, yet they cannot be measured ; we 
know them, yet they are not comprehended. 




IF the task of assigning the method in which doc- 
trine is revealed can be only partially and ap- 
proximately discharged with reference to the Old Tes- 
tament, that is still more the case with respect to the 
New Testament. It is still in the attitude of men 
approaching from below, and looking upward, that we 
must survey the subject, and describe it ; whereas, 
to perform the task perfectly, one should have to 
mount up to the sources of the teaching, and follow it 
down as it passes into human thought and human 
speech, and claims to mingle with human faith. This 
wisdom is hidden from all living, saving Him who is 
in the bosom of the Father. For us, only the side of 
things that is next us is accessible ; and even of this, 
our knowledge is fragmentary and mixed. 

In the New Testament a great wealth of doctrinal 
teaching meets us. Yet let us remember, as we pro- 
ceed, how much is in the New Testament also, that 
is distinguishable from doctrinal teaching, and has its 
own independent ways of acting on men, and on 
their life and destiny. We have narrative, that is 
meant to operate as historic fact dwelling in the 
memory ; recorded events, great and small, that are 
to form the scenery of our mental vision as we look 


up the stream of time ; influences that touch the 
heart, and operate by impression ; a various inculca- 
tion of privilege and of duty, laying hold of the 
conscience — drawing the sympathies of the renewed 
heart — to be proved and made good in the actual life 
of men. These are great parts of our New Testa- 
ment : they intertwine in the closest way with the 
doctrinal teaching, and depend on it for light and life ; 
and it, in turn, conveys much of its meaning and finds 
much of its evidence through them. 

But our concern now is with the one element only. 
In speaking of that, it will be best to mark some con- 
trasts between the Old Testament and the New, the 
consideration of which will introduce what is most 
essential for our present purpose. 

The Church of the Old Testament, then, was look- 
ing forward to good things to come. God was already 
their God — that was present. God was already bless- 
ing them — that also was present. But the mercy by 
which the goodwill of God to them, and His care for 
their welfare, should be adequately and conclusively 
expressed, had not yet arrived. It was a hope ; serv- 
ing God day and night, they hoped to come to it. 
Nothing w^as yet brought to pass by way of event, able 
either to express or explain the relation towards them 
which God assumed, or able to justify the trust in God 
which they were taught to cherish. So, also, nothing 
had come to pass adapted to countervail the power of 
evil working in the lot of man, and continually coming 
to light ; nothing that carried in its bosom a manifest 
remedy for all. Yet they had God, the source of all 
events, of all resources ; and in God a hope grounded 

Lect. III.] CONTRASTS. 11 

on promise ; and from God a continual earnest which 
held them looking forward. But we under the New 
Testament have received the promise. Those events, 
in which grace comes, conquers, and reigns, have be- 
come part of the world's history and of ours. Those 
o-reatest blesslnes, in which the mind and goodwill of 
God to His Church on earth are adequately unfolded 
and made effectual, have been revealed, have been im- 
parted. Christ has come, lived, died, risen again, and 
ascended Into glory. 

Again, the Church under the Old Testament was 
trained under a progressive course of revelations. 
At each stage the revelation was Incomplete, and 
seemed to leave the Church thankful, yet questioning, 
looking wistfully for something further. At no period 
of her history was any oracle given, adequate to guide 
her for many succeeding ages. As the Church passed 
into new circumstances and encountered new diffi- 
culties, new light was given, both for the purpose of 
directing her own course, and also to add some fresh 
illustration to the purposes of God concerning which 
faith should be cherished. Each communication of 
this kind admitted of being supplemented by another 
as time went on. With the New Testament Church 
it Is otherwise. A manifestation has been made to us 
of the mind of God and of His ways. In which Reve- 
lation Is complete. He has made that discovery of 
Himself In which, for men on the earth and for the 
Church in its earthly state, His whole counsel Is em- 
bodied. He has no more to add. We have no more 
to receive. What God does for man, what He will 
have man to seek from Him, and do In His service, 


what His mind is concerning both, have been con- 
clusively revealed. The Church must still move on 
through successive experiences ; history does not stand 
still now, any more than in the days of old. New 
circumstances arise : transformations pass not only 
on the outward conditions of men and things, but on 
the inner conditions too ; the intellectual and moral 
scenery of the mind of man shifts and varies ; out of 
the depths of human nature, and from the ferment of 
social changes, new questions rise, new temptations are 
developed, the strain is applied to the Church's system 
in new directions. But we expect no new utterances 
to direct us in these particulars. There is still, in- 
deed, the promise of the Spirit to be fulfilled : what 
that may contain, or may warrant us to expect, is for 
separate consideration. At all events, we have now 
not a developing and advancing, but a completed 

Once more, in the case of the Church under the Old 
Testament, a great part of the meaning and mind of 
God was rather embodied in a discipline than ex- 
hibited in a doctrine. So there was communicated to 
the believers of those days, much of the benefit or fruit 
corresponding to many a truth which they were never 
distinctly taught. This benefit might come to them 
in one or both of two ways. The discipline might 
supply forms or types of thought, according to which 
the nature and the manner of bestowing of better 
blessings might be conceived ; and the one might be 
received not merely as an image of the other, but as 
a pledge too. Or, again, it might come in this way, — 

1 Note A, 

Lect. III.] CONTRASTS. 79 

which was perhaps the more constant and powerful, — 
viz. as the discIpHne exerted a moulding influence on 
those who were under it, and obediently yielded to it, 
bringing them to an attitude and exercise of faith 
towards God which corresponded to an evangelical 
relation to Him. But now, under the New Testa- 
ment, the Church receives a far more open declara- 
tion of the mind of God. It is true still, indeed, as 
it was under the Old Testament, that Revelation re- 
quires submission; and that great part of the Insight (as 
well as the benefit) which it affords Is to be attained 
along the path of obedience. Yet the contrast between 
the two Testaments remains. The revelation of the 
New Testament stands much more in intelligible prin- 
ciples of truth, applicable directly to the very agencies 
and events by which redemption Is achieved, and to 
the relation on which redemption proceeds, or which 
redemption constitutes and brings into being. It 
calls us to understand these principles, to give effect 
to them, to enter into the meaning of them as fully 
and completely as we can. For all predicaments 
which now affect the Church, all predicaments in 
which a believer can find himself, are ruled by those 
relations, those revealed relations to the Redeemer, 
and to the great world of being and of principle of 
which He is the centre. It is no wonder, therefore, 
that doctrine holds a large place in the New Testa- 
ment revelation, and In the history of the Church 
following upon it down to this hour. To understand 
the meaning and to assign the range and connection 
of principles, is one great part of the duty now laid 
on the Church and on believers ; and It has a close 


connection with the enjoyment of spiritual blessings, 
and with the discharge of spiritual service towards 

Yet the manner in which this peculiarity of the 
New Testament is provided for deserves particular 
attention. For while the two great divisions of the 
Scriptures have their differences in point of method, 
there are great fundamental resemblances. If it be 
true that the Old Testament is essentially historical, its 
lessons rising out of transactions and events, the same 
is equally true of the New Testament. It consists 
essentially In the unveiling of divine transactions and 
events. In which man's nature and man's destiny 
are historically concerned. The essential elements 
with which we here have to do are persons, facts, 
events, presupposing history that goes before, neces- 
sitating and entailing historical consequences, or 
historical alternatives that are to follow after. The 
Lord Jesus Christ is announced, is Incarnate, mani- 
fests His glory. Is rejected, crucified, rises, ascends, 
gives the Spirit, and so forth. But the difference lies 
here : For the purposes of Old Testament teaching 
and training a provisional and preparatory history 
was evolved, and a provisional apparatus of facts and 
objects, standing much in elements of this world, was 
appointed and employed. But in the New Testa- 
ment the great realities break into manifestation, the 
essential and decisive interpositions of God In the 
world's history come to pass. The persons and the 
facts that we have here to do with, are not provisional 
and temporary, but adequate and immutable. Here 

^ Note B. 


we come face to face with the actual embodiments in 
a divine history of the divine counsels. Here we 
have the proper and complete expression of eternal 
principles, as they bear, and as they take effect, on 
man's state and on the earth's history. The media- 
tion of Christ, for example, is the adequate and 
complete measure of the love and grace as well as of 
the truth and righteousness of God, in so far as man- 
kind are concerned in these great attributes. Our 
knowledge may still fall short, our understanding may 
still labour ineffectually to grasp the great truths in 
their full compass ; but if that is so, it is not because 
the objects set before us are mere earthly images, 
and the relations between them (to one another and 
God and us), poor shadows, inadequate to convey the 
truths to which they point. Here we are in the 
presence of the truth itself. And if, after all, we 
fail and falter, it is only because we are ourselves In- 
adequate to reach the truth that stands right before 
us ; partly also it is because human language, at its 
best, is able to give only a partial account of so great 
a history : though prepared and fitted for its work 
by all the processes of Old Testament development, 
it still struggles under the burden, and leaves much 

Thus, then, there is a continuous unity of principle 
in the method adopted throughout divine revelation, 
In Old Testament and New Testament alike. Always 
the historical is presupposed, and out of it the doctrine 
emerges, illustrating It, and becoming itself visible and 
substantial as it shines forth from the great array of 
facts. The constancy of this method, and the neces- 


sity of it with relation to the conditions of our race 
at least, are strongly illustrated by the reserve so 
manifestly practised with respect to the revelation of 
many important truths, until Christ had come, and 
lived, and died, and risen. Until those great facts 
had become historical, it was not possible to make 
fitting revelation of principles and relations which 
they embodied, and which they were to disclose. In 
the meantime, doubtless, the Church needed some 
guidance and influence such as truth transmits into 
the mind and life. But this was provided for, 
by providing facts and events of an intermediate, 
temporary, representative kind. Birth of children, 
inheritances, kings, priests, prophets, sacrifices, cere- 
monies, conflicts, providences of a hundred kinds, 
served the turn for the time of preparation. About 
these, and out of these, representations of truth could 
be m.ade to emerge ; from them, evangelical impres- 
sions, or impressions corresponding to those which 
the gospel requires, could be derived ; and to the 
Church standing by them, looking forward, auguries 
of greater things, like these, yet to be realized, could 
be sueeested or declared. But at last, in the order 
of the times, the great facts arise ; and from them 
breaks forth, and from them for ever shines clearly, 
the light • of Christian doctrine — not dispersed into 
a train of slow successive • lessons, but concentrated 
and gathered into one blaze of light around the 
incarnation and the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

So, first and last, the divine truth is designed to 
lead us into the understanding of divine history, in 
which history it calls us to confess and to claim our 


own place. The adoption of any other method seems 
inconsistent with the nature of man ; possibly it may 
also be inconsistent with the nature of God. With a 
view to a fitting communication of the mind of God to 
our minds, some such method may be dictated by the 
very nature of our minds. It may be dictated also by 
the very nature of the divine mind, and of all divine 
truth. For God is the Living One ; not a holy name 
and being only, but holy power and life. And divine 
truths are also divine forces, the light and the life 
being- one. And when the Eternal Word would reveal 


God, He went forth to do it in great and marvellous 
works, in a universe full of force and movement, full 
of strange, intricate, ever progressive histories.^ 

Hence (altogether apart from the question of the 
comparative dates of the particular writings) the New 
Testament rightly begins with the Gospels. They 
are the foundation of the Epistles. A firm grasp of 
the history is the first essential of all sound Christiaii 

Yet this is not to be understood as if the facts did 
or could first of all rise into view as mere dry facts, 
afterwards to be invested with doctrinal interest and 
importance. It was not so in the Old Testament. It 
could not be so in the New Testament. The Epistles 
may open out further what is implied in the history, 
and what results from it ; but the Christian story is 
already doctrinal at its very first proposal, and all 
Christian knowledge of it includes elements" of doc- 
trine as to what the facts mean, and how they are 
related. Those facts are from the first luminous, the 

1 Note C. 


counsel of God coming to light through them, and 
through the divine words which accompany them. 
The Gospels are already all alive with doctrine before 
you come to the Epistles. 

The Gospels were committed to writing, of course, 
at a time when the great facts of the Christian history 
had been accomplished, and the faith of them delivered 
to the Church, which was already walking in this light. 
The evangelists write as fully conscious of the meaning 
with which the facts were pregnant ; and they speak 
so as to guide the readers on these points in cases 
where they might be in danger of being misled. At 
the same time, we have in their pages a selection of 
passages from the history, so told that we can see the 
impression produced by the events, while they were 
falling out, upon the minds of those with whom God 
was especially dealing. We mark how they were 
made to feel that the power of God was in movement, 
that the promises were hastening to fulfilment, and 
that the kingdom of God was at hand. We mark 
especially our Lord Jesus coming on the scene, and 
engaging in a ministry, in the course of which, in 
addition to most significant works, continual instruc- 
tion was going on. Yet we see clearly that there 
were topics on which a certain reserve was used. 
Until the things concerning our Lord came to 
an end, there were topics on which much teaching 
could not be advantageously spent. And certainly, 
until then there seemed to be no recipiency for It. 
Solemn sayings, suggestive and weighty, with refer- 
ence to coming events, seemed to be spoken in vain. 
They rather served the purpose of intimating that 

Lect. III.] THE GOSPELS. 85 

there were elements in the case which those about 
our Lord could little apprehend or estimate as yet, 
than of disclosing what these were. Thus, for 
example, it is clear that the essential truth as to our 
Lord's dignity had become certain to the minds of the 
apostles. But as to the manner in which His history 
should proceed to bring about the fulfilment of the 
promises, viz. by a dark and shameful death, their 
minds remained obstinately non-recipient ; and behind 
that fact, which they would not open their minds to 
credit, how much of doctrine lay unreceived ! Indeed, 
one cannot escape the impression that the apostles, for 
a time, were even less recipient of some of the truths 
bearing on these points, than many of their prede- 
cessors under the later portions of the Old Testament 
economy. They were held, as it were, and fascinated 
by the power of influence, by the fulness of light pour- 
ing on them from the living Lord ; and they had no 
eyes or ears for what seemed strangely incongruous to 
all their thoughts of Him. The essential thing was, 
that the history, as it fell out, should lay hold of their 
minds, mould their thoughts and their impressions, 
and become a means of teaching, and a foundation for 
it, which nothing else could be.^ 

And so, when in their turn they become instructors, 
we find them intensely occupied {e.g. in the teaching 
recorded in the Acts) with calling first for the re- 
cognition of the Christian facts, along with the most 
simple elements of truth as to their meaning. That 
God had sent His Son for us, that it was He who 
was crucified in weakness, that God had raised Him 

1 Note D. 


up, that the Spirit was now given, that repentance and 
forgiveness of sins were preached through Christ's 
name, and given for His sake, and that He should 
come again : these were the first points. Through 
these, men v/ere led on to all that this history was 
fitted to disclose, — who this Son was, — in what sense 
He was the Son, — how forgiveness was His to bestow, 
and so on. 

But in the Epistles especially, among other ends 
which are provided for, the manner in which the 
Christian faith is to be understood, and is to be made 
use of and applied by believing men, is variously 
explained. It has been remarked that the grand 
outlines of the New Testament Christian doctrine 
are already evident in the Gospels. And it might 
have been remarked, that already the Gospels throw 
back on the Old Testament a flood of light, under 
Avhich, if not an increased significance, yet a very 
increased explicitness of significance, begins to attach 
to every page of it. But the Epistles make the great 
advance in this line. They add to the fulness of our 
doctrinal knowledge by their own statements. But 
besides that, they give us keys that unlock many 
chambers of deeper meaning in the Old Testament 
and in the Gospel history. In delivering their own 
Christian teaching, they instruct us at the same time 
how the whole history of redemption bears, and should 
be brought to bear, on this department, and how the 
mind of the great Prophet through all the Scriptures 
is to be gathered for the guidance of our thoughts. 
The person and work of Christ, the state and powers 
of man, the gracious counsel of Father, Son, and Holy 


Ghost, the application of redemption, the means of 
grace, the ultimate issues of all, are set by them, not 
only in the light of their own statements, but in the 
collective light of all the Scriptures. 

Some further considerations as to the manner in 
which this is done shall be added immediately. But 
I detain you for a moment to dwell on this as manifest 
fact, that a leading object in the Epistles especially is 
to deliver to us, and to teach us to apply, principles of 
truth for the regulation of our thoughts and of our 
actions through them. This is to be noticed the more, 
that it has sometimes been denied and obscured. The 
Epistles differ extremely in tone and character. Some 
of them expatiate on the development of doctrinal 
theses ; others deal with practical interests or with 
Christian experience, seemingly, at times, in a frag- 
mentary or desultory way. But of both classes the 
assertion now made holds. It is not merely that the 
writers take occasion to declare great truths. But they 
expect their readers to follow and sympathize with 
them in the freest and most various applications of those 
truths, in reasonings with them of every conceivable 
kind. They are not content to propound oracles to be 
listened to, as to faith, as to practice. But, as if feel- 
ing that the time was short, and the limits narrow, and 
the work of training the Church to the responsibilities 
that lay before her great, they are never weary of 
arguing, proving, deducing, corroborating, illustrating. 
The Galatians go wrong on a point of practice con- 
nected with an outward rite. It is an error sympto- 
matic of grave perversions of the inner life ; yet it is 
of a kind that might seem to require to be settled by 


definite prescription as to the outward thing. The 
apostle is not content to settle it so. ' O foolish 
Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not 
obey the truth ? ' The meaning of Christ's crucifixion, 
the principles that regulate the gift of the Holy Spirit, 
the way in which Abraham was justified, the relation 
between law and promise in the Old Testament, the 
difference between the dispensation that had not and 
the dispensation that had the unveiled grace of adop- 
tion, — all these must hasten together to set them 
right — all these should have prevented the error — 
all shall be drawn on now to remedy it. The 
Corinthians have a practical question about women's 
rights. The apostle could have settled it with a 
sentence ; he settles it with a catena of principles 
from the very source : he would have them understand 
that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of 
the woman is the man, but the head of Christ Is God. 
Meekness Is to be pressed on the Philippians ; the doc- 
trine of the Incarnation is called in to enforce It. The 
Instances are Innumerable, and I need not name more 
of this kind ; but. In the Epistles which are more 
especially devoted to some set theme, every one knows 
how. Instead of delivering a mere lesson, the writers 
ply an eager dialectic to compel their readers to plunge 
into the great connections of truth. They would have 
us labour to discern the bearings of that which Is 
delivered on every side, not merely passively receive 
the utterances of an oracle, or gaze awe-struck, as the 
idolater at a fetish. 

All this is congruous to the Idea or position, that 
the Church Is now, under the New Testament, as she 


never was before, delivered to a mould of doctrine. 
To understand and apply revealed principles, related 
to one another, and fruitful of applications and results 
in their bearing on cases which may arise, is a great 
part of the believer's duty, and a great element in his 
exercise and trial. It may still be true — it is — that 
there is the greatest reason for maintaining a lowly 
spirit in receiving God's revelations — yielding our- 
selves to be formed to the reception of that which it 
pleases God to reveal. It may be true also — certainly 
it is— that God's thoughts go unspeakably beyond 
ours ; so that he who knows most knows but in part, 
and he knows best who feels most fully how little 
he can measure the counsels of God. Yet it remains 
true that we are now more eminently called to some 
fellowship with God's mind as well as with His will : 
we are called to know — to understand — in our mea- 
sure. A leading object of revelation is, that those 
who receive it may enter into possession of intelligible 
principles of truth, so as to use and apply them in a 
manner conformed to their genuine sense. 

But while the New Testament involves or com- 
prehends a disclosure of principles into which it ex- 
pects us to enter, and which it teaches us vigorously 
and watchfully to apply, yet certainly it does not pre- 
sent them as they are presented in creeds, or systems, 
or theological deliverances. That is to say, we do not 
find the New Testament dealing strictly and only with 
the question, What can be delivered to knowledge ? 
and. How can It be measured by strict and instant de- 
finition ? and, How concatenated, so that the intellect 
may have open passages scientifically cleared and 


measured from part to part, and from position to posi- 
tion ? Not so. The New Testament has (in its narrow 
bounds) a great deal more to do than that.^ And in 
its own peculiar method, it does a great deal more for 
theology, and for other weighty human interests as well, 
than it would have done had any such method as has 
now been suggested been in point of fact pursued. 

It" is a revelation of a great world of principles 
indeed, but not of principles only, — of persons, facts, 
forces. With that world we are already connected, 
are so in the very roots of our being, yet in a dark, dull, 
perverse manner. Partly, then, the object is to revive 
the lost or the decaying knowledge and sensibilities ; 
partly to set before us the nature of the relations 
into which we have fallen unawares ; partly to reveal 
to us the nature and effects of new interpositions, 
further explained on one side by their adaptation to 
experimental wants, further explained on the other by 
effects that are to follow from them. Then, even in 
so far as this involves revelation in the strictest sense, 
it is revelation that is not to open its meaning to mere 
intellect (if, indeed, there be any source of know- 
ledge that does or can do so) ; no — but to feeling 
and to practice ; to sorrow and to shame ; to love, 
and to gladness, and to hope that goes thrilling 
into the ages to come ; also to watchfulness, and 
to effort, and to conflict. It is such a great practical 
world which is revealed to us, not merely that it 
may be known, but that it may come in on us, 
under the influence of a great Agent, as a universal 
moving force, teaching, striving, quickening, strength- 

1 Note E. 


ening, and so forth ; and the revelation is adapted to 
all these ends. Therefore, so far as speech can 
do it, it is not scientific theory about the thing, but 
the various many-sided vitality of the thing itself, 
that strikes out upon us from the page of Scripture, 
soliciting and operating on every capability of our 
human nature. 

It belongs to this object of the New Testament 
writers, as we find, that they should occasionally 
select some doctrinal thesis for more set and con- 
tinuous discussion. But even when they do, what 
we find embodied in their treatment of the theme is 
something very different from a syllabus of dogmas, 
or even a theological exposition of the ideas that are 
taken in hand and constitute the writer's immediate 
subject. The most elaborate treatment of a connected 
theme, or set of themes, is probably that contained in 
the earlier chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. 
The apostle takes a plan or order of thought, the 
dialectical advantages of which are obvious on ordi- 
nary principles, and he advances by steps which such 
principles explain. But the material which fills his 
outline conforms to the common character of all the 
New Testament writings. It is in the first place more 
than doctrine, glowing as it does with an enthusiasm, 
and appealing for a response, in which doctrine fuses 
itself with other elements. But in so far as it is 
doctrinal, — and that is its leading character, — it is 
doctrine administered and delivered in a peculiar and, 
I will say, a divine method. 

The peculiarity observable even in such passages is 
doubtless partly explained by this, that the writer is 


dealing, first of all, with the case and wants of the 
particular society to which he writes ; and therefore 
what he dwells on and what he omits, his allusions 
and illustrations, the objections he supposes and the 
authorities he appeals to, are regulated in a measure 
by the case immediately before him. But this obvious 
condition explains only the more superficial characters 
of the phenomenon. It is more in point to say, that 
the apostle, in the spirit of his Master, discerns in a 
quite peculiar manner what the case is w^hich is before 
him, what the condition of the audience he addresses. 
He views it in a direct light of truth, and sees into 
the roots of it, where its peculiarities spring out of 
permanent conditions of human nature. Hence, also, 
his treatment of it has permanent interest and value. 

But then, in providing for the case, in administering 
to the wants, what source does the apostle draw from, 
and how does he proceed ? Here I raise no debate 
as to the state of mind in which the inspired man 
should be conceived to be, or how far his insight 
extends. I neither know nor care. It is enough for 
me, that, speaking in the Spirit, he speaks out of the 
fulness of a supreme insight and a supreme wisdom. 
These are the resources, which, through whatever 
experiences and workings of his own mind, conscious 
or unconscious, are translated into the effects with 
which we deal. And when I ask again, What sources 
do the New Testament writers draw from, and in 
what method do they proceed ? — I reply. Let those say 
who have felt how these writers, as from the centre 
of some bright world, of which they are a part, and 
which they perfectly behold, speak out to us, approach- 


ing from the outside and from below, apprehendino- 
feebly what they deliver so certainly and so fitly. ^ 

Let us suppose that I have some experiences to go 
through, and that, in order to go through them suc- 
cessfully, an acquaintance is needed with the principles 
and applications of some science, some body of truth 
complex and far-reaching, involving abstract principles 
and concrete applications that branch out in all direc- 
tions. Let me suppose that I have only the most 
vague and dim notions of this whole department of 
knowledge. Let me suppose that one who is a 
master of all science, and of this science, takes me 
in hand to meet this pressing difficulty. He says to 
me. Do not give way to bewilderment. I cannot make 
you in an hour or two a master of this science ; yet, 
if you will attend to me, I will give you enough of 
what you need to know, to guide you through what 
lies before you, intelligently, advantageously, safely. 
So he begins, keeping always in view my practical 
exigency, my stage of knowledge, my degree of 
capacity, and measuring and proportioning his state- 
ments by this point of view. He tells me the facts 
and the processes, the forces and the conditions, with 
which I shall have to deal. That I may deal with 
them intelligently, he explains them as he goes, 
drawing forth principles, so far as I can take them 
in, so far as they are required with a view to my 
experiences. He does not always confine himself 
to what is barely necessary for the bare practical 
exigency. Partly because he respects my desire to 
understand, partly because gratified intellectual in- 

I Note F. 


terest fixes knowledge by illuminating and connect- 
ing it, he goes here and there a little further out into 
theory, and shows me lines of principles stretching 
away into regions which cannot for the present be 
explained. All through he dexterously adapts what- 
ever he says to my actual state : he dovetails his in- 
struction into my actual mental conditions ; he links 
what he brings to what he knows me to have before- 
hand ; familiar experiences of mine become analogies 
to illustrate, and fixed points by which to hold, the 
new knowledge ; familiar applications are suggested, 
experiments that I might make, whereby to see with 
my eyes how the forces work. The lesson is a marvel 
of adaptive skill, and at the end he repeats : Now 
attend to what I have said, and it will take you safely 
through. But all these things which he has said, as 
he says them, are part of a complete world of ordered 
thought that dwells within him, — a knowledge not 
fragmentary, but complete. And even in his concrete 
illustrations, his condescensions to my ignorance, in 
his very phrasing of them, there are shades, and accu- 
racies, and nice distinctions, that would be very signi- 
ficant, to one who knew a little more than I, how the 
operation of various principles that concur and limit 
one another is full before his mind, and is provided 
for in his speech. He is fetching out of the great 
array of ordered truth at his disposal, this here, and 
that there, which my exigency requires, and putting it 
in shapes that adapt it to me ; yet so that the har- 
mony and perspicuity of the rounded truth is no- 
where really violated. For me, meanwhile, it is well 
if my provisional and Imperfect perceptions so keep 


the tracks laid down for them, that I truly hold the 
facts and guiding notes delivered, and that I enter 
genuinely into the glimpses of science given me, so as 
to have my practice illuminated and made intelligent, 
and to have the spirit of research awakened for the 
days to come. Not very different from the case sup- 
posed is the case we have before us. For if our 
knowledge is not quite so hasty, and not quite so 
fragmentary, and not quite so provisional and occa- 
sional, as the illustration supposes, yet how far, on 
the other side, does His supreme insight, who is our 
teacher, rise above the measure of all masters of 
earthly knowledge ! So, then, the apostles, speaking 
in the spirit of their Master, draw from a knowledge 
that is not in part, so much as shall serve the occa- 
sions of the life of faith for a few hundred or a few 
thousand years. They aim not at one department of 
the man only, but rather at the whole mood of mind 
that ought to be cherished, and the whole working of 
the man that ought to be set agoing. Into these 
dogma enters as an element, sometimes as the lead- 
ing and prevailing element, but not as the only one. 
And then, it is generally not a single dogma singly 
analyzed and extricated, but a certain complex of 
beliefs in their mutual connection and influence, that 
is presented and inculcated. Resting on the facts of 
the divine history of redemption, they fetch down 
principles from above, as it were, the full bearings 
and relations of which are apparent to them, or are 
apparent to the Spirit in whom they speak ; and they 
show to us some of these relations and bearings. 
They bring them to bear in the manner of direct 


insight. They do not speak Hke men following out 
patiently abstractions of their own minds, but like 
men who see the thing with their eyes ; so that 
even their argumentative illustration is not in the 
way of painful analysis of thought, but is sudden, 
powerful, broken, hastening from point to point, as if 
some scene were rushing into view, and the connec- 
tion of its parts not thought out, but seen. Hence, 
as in the case supposed, so in this, the sentences have 
a meaning so full and deep, that while the immediate 
intention for us is discernible, there is always room 
for further insight. Nor does this remark apply only 
to the mind of the author in his sentence. In the 
very utterance of it there is a pregnancy ; not as of 
men paring down their words to the strictness of theory, 
but as of men filled with the complex greatness and 
fulness of the reality they see. 

This supreme insight, with its direct effect on the 
utterance, characterizes all the Bible teaching. We 
also will utter our theology so when we are inspired — 
not till then in this world. 

Now all this is brought to bear on the complex 
human being, as one alive, or that ought to be alive, 
through all his faculties, to the case presented. It is 
not the understanding alone that is dealt with, though 
the understanding is never neglected, and is some- 
times the chief faculty called into play through long 
contexts. Still it is not the understanding alone. 
Every side of human nature that has an aspect towards 
the great elements of the divine economy is kept in 
view. The man with his conscience stirred, with his 
sense of relations towards God awakened, with his 

Lect. III.] FREE USE OF TERMS. ' 97 

memory stored with the facts of a divine history, with 
his character moulded, and his mind furnished by the 
manifold experience of his own history, — the man 
drawn into sympathy with many past generations, 
that have been stirred, exercised, dealt with in the 
same way, — is beset by the Scripture teaching behind 
and before. And the doctrine (which is our present 
subject) is interpreted to him, not by symbols for the 
understanding only, nor in an order solely dictated by 
the exigencies of the understanding : it is interpreted 
to him through every aptitude that is supplied in all 
these complex conditions of his state. 

In perfect harmony with the general method of 
administration, is the perfectly free and unrestrained 
manner in which language is employed. For the 
purpose of strict doctrinal disquisition, it is essential 
that words should be employed as much as possible 
in a uniform sense, determined by rigid definitions. 
It is not so with the New Testament writers. They 
make the freest use of the words of human speech, in 
any of the senses attaching to them, which serves the 
present purpose, and carries home the lesson that is 
in hand. These words have a certain meaninof in 
each place in which they are employed ; it is a sense 
fixed by the context, or by certain kinds of context 
and trains of thought. But the sense varies from 
context to context, according to the theme in hand or 
the object in view, so as to lay hold in the most direct 
and ready way of the practical human mind, in the 
variety of its practical conditions, and of its associa- 
tions. Let it be considered in what various shades of 
sense such words occur as faith, law, love, sanctify. 


and the like. Na}'. the great name of God itself is 
not an exception : for He called them gods to whom 
the word of God came. 

It is just because the manner of teaching is of this 
kind, that the Scriptures are on all necessary points 
clear ; that while they exercise the intellect by vari- 
ous difficulties, their fundamental doctrines, and the 
general drift of their teaching, are apparent to 
honest and humble minds. Scripture conveys to 
such minds a satisfying sense of substantial and 
practical knowledge — knowledge of realities, and not 
of mere theory or abstraction. What men are to 
think about God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit ; on 
what principles God deals with them, and will have 
them deal with Him ; what the results of the great 
history of redemption are ; w^hat men are to expect 
from God, and how they are to serve Him : on such 
points the Scriptures convey a teaching which is of no 
doubtful import to obedient minds. It is true, that, 
in following out the issues and relations of the various 
articles pertaining to it, questions arise which require 
further and more exact search, and necessitate dis- 
cussions of various kinds. But on the great funda- 
mental points, the manner of the Scripture teaching 
is fitted to bring about an instant appreciation of the 
meaning and bearing of a great system of substantial 
truth, and to supply, at the same time, means of 
further and more detailed determinations, in a degree 
which no other manner of teaching could accomplish.^ 
The occasional character of the Epistles has been 
appealed to, as proving that the New Testament was 

^ Note G. 


never intended to be looked to as a complete or 
adequate rule of faith. These Epistles, connected 
with and adapted to the occasional wants of the early 
churches, are, it is urged, too thoroughly relative to 
that age to be suitable to meet the wants of all ages. 
But, in truth, it is this very feature or circumstance 
that secures the essential adaptation of the New 
Testament to its great office. Hence it comes that 
the teaching of principles takes the form of vivid 
practical illustration of the way in which they may be 
misunderstood, and the way in which they ought to be 
applied. I might urge — but I will not dwell upon it 
now — that the apostolic writers deal with the wants 
and dangers of the churches then existing with a 
peculiar insight, seeing deep into the very heart of 
them, so as to reach the common human ground of all 
analogous wants and dangers. Time fails for the illus- 
tration of this. It is enough to say, that, dealing with 
practical human nature, prepared in various different 
schools of prior training, and reacting in the freest 
way under the teaching and training of Christian 
revelation, the apostles find the occasion of just that 
administration of the truth which, first, helps us to 
ascertain its real meaning, by its declared tendencies 
and results ; and secondly, shows us how it is to take 
effect on human hearts, and lives, and societies, in all 
these bearing; fruit unto God.^ 

We have seen, then, that the New Testament, fol- 
lowing upon the Old, and completing it, delivers to us, 
along with all else that is required, a revelation of prin- 
ciples of truth, sufficient for the Church until the end 

1 Note H. 


shall come. This is not delivered to us in a syllabus 
of dogmas. Such a syllabus must proceed by strict 
definition, and by single lines of connection, chosen 
in preference to others. The New Testament pro- 
ceeds in another manner. It embodies a various and 
complex exhibition of the manner in which princi- 
ples stand related to one another, to facts, interests, 
feelings, duty. In the Bible, as in creation, there is 
variety, seeming negligence, what may be called con- 
fusion. But there is real order ; while the principles 
are brought out to us in the most familiar way, and 
by instances of the commonest kind. 

Ere I close, let me vary the illustration of the points 
I have adduced, by putting them in another way. 

Let it be supposed that the problem is to convey 
into men's minds an ample knowledge of principles 
of truth. Now the principles of divine truth are 
infinite. They rise from fathomless fountains, and go 
out to measureless issues. How can the right way of 
administering such truth, and of receiving it when ad- 
ministered, be ascertained ? Would it not be well if 
some method could be selected which should regulate 
the measure and manner in which such truth is pre- 
sented to us and unfolded ? For, no doubt, there are 
regions of truth by us never yet entered ; and, no doubt, 
every principle of truth with which we are acquainted 
has its outofoiuQ^s where we cannot follow it. 

Now the Scripture method subserves this end, and 
it does so in virtue of these two features in it. 

The Christian doctrine rests upon and rises out of 
the Christian facts — the persons, the transactions, the 
events. These come before us in a purely historical 


way ; and out of them, rising out of the history, comes 
the teaching : what we are to think of God, of man, of 
Christ ; of that which He came to do and did ; of the 
principles of truth that are honoured, illustrated, and 
made effectual by Him. So, also, all obligations and all 
hopes come before us as principles of truth flowing out 
of what man has shown himself to be, what God has 
done or is to do. Christian doctrine is the \iQ:ht that 
illuminates for us the transactions of a divine history, 
and the real persons, real powers, which in those 
transactions are made apparent. It rules the impres- 
sions we should form concernlnor the relations In 
which we stand, or may stand, with persons histori- 
cally revealed, and events historically transacted. 

The truths thus revealed are either simply mani- 
fested or exhibited, as, for instance, the nature of 
God ; or they are truths established and generated, 
as it were, by the process of the divine history 
itself; as the redemption of sinners. But in the 
one case and the other alike, the grand distinction 
of the Christian revelation is, that the facts which 
lie at the foundation of z^ are the adequate and 
eternal embodiments of those truths, not imperfect 
and transient Illustrations of them. They are, so 
to say, the native and appropriate expression of 
eternal principles as they bear on man's state and the 
earth's history, and in them God Himself rests. We 
are here, therefore, face to face with eternal realities 
and principles, passing into history. The doctrinal 
unfoldlno- of the bearinof of l/iese facts and events Is 

o o 

the direct unfolding of the unchanging truth. That 
we may understand such facts, that we may enter into 


them, and take up ground about them, explicit doc- 
trinal statements are needed ; and they are often of a 
very profound kind, demanding the most careful and 
earnest endeavours to apprehend it. And yet we do 
not lose ourselves in a world too vast for us. The 
fulness of divine truth is indeed infinite, and the range of 
divine principles of procedure goes beyond all compass 
of ours. Yet the doctrinal statements of Scripture are 
kept within bounds, so to say, by this, that they cleave 
to the facts of that divine history which has been trans- 
acted within the world. They are not, in general, 
orderly deductions from those first principles which 
would prove too high for us, but are directed to give 
us just views of the history. From these topics they 
do lead us out sometimes to heights where all thought 
reels, but evermore they lead us back to the facts. In 
the intelligence of them, all the teaching finds its proper 
end ; in the holding, believing, and realizing of them, 
our hold of all the rest is verified, made real, human, 
and fruitful. 

But, second, it is characteristic of Christian doctrine 
that it is delivered to be the light and guide of Christian 
life. It is not meant for mere gratification of specula- 
tive curiosity, or for rounding off a system. As it 
radiates from history — a divine history — so it is meant 
to pass over into another history, our own. In a word, 
it comes to illuminate and guide the life of renewed 
men. This does not imply that we are to measure our 
faith in the truth by our perception of its bearing on 
practice. It may well be that it has various bearings 
on practice, even in our own case, which our analysis 
is unable to detect or to assisfn. But the remark does 


imply that all our contemplations of truth should issue 
forth into faith, love, and obedience ; and it does cer- 
tainly afford us. a guiding principle, illustrating the 
fitness of the method which the Scriptures pursue. 
Those truths and aspects of truth are brought before 
us which concern our faith and obedience, the due 
regulation of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Our 
walking with God, and the reconciliation in which it 
begins, was meant to be lightsome ; it was intended to 
involve the element of a mutual understanding. There 
is therefore a light of truth for us to appropriate and 
enjoy. But it is such as is fitted to direct practice, 
rather than abstract and speculative. We do indeed 
find heads of doctrine very exactly discussed. And 
this alone is sufficient to show that we are expected to 
use our utmost diligence to acquaint ourselves with the 
whole series of principles inculcated in the Scriptures, 
with their rano-e and their connection. Yet, even in 
these cases, the discussion is so introduced, carried 
on, and applied, that we see the doctrine in all its 
branches bearing on life and experience ; and by its 
bearing on these we find it interpreted and ex- 
plained. It does not stand before us as an immut- 
able formula ; it moves, 'it has hands and feet;' we 
see whence it comes, and whither it goes. Now if 
it be so, that the method of Scripture limits and mea- 
sures its communications, so as to give those truths 
which pass over into Christian life and worship, then 
be it noticed that this method ensures the exercise of 
the intellect (as well as other powers) far more pro- 
foundly than any other could. We are never allowed 
to take up mere forms of words, nor to sit gazing at 


abstract conceptions. Everywhere we are forced to 
enter livingly into the doctrine, so as to apprehend its 
relations to the vitaHties of Christian life. If there is 
a limitation hence arising on the topics presented, 
there is anything rather than a limitation of the 
exercise of intelligence demanded, anything but a low 
rating of the importance of the results. A great field 
of duty, in the exercise of mind, is opened up, and 
room is made for endless progress, in having our 
conceptions brought to correspond more accurately 
and completely to the truth, as it is uttered to mind, 
heart, and conscience. 

The complete Scriptures, then, exhibit the fulness of 
divine truth, as that is embodied and provided for in 
divine arrangements and transactions, and also as it is 
related to the variety of human experience, and the 
various modes and manifestations of the Christian life. 

So we may say that the truth is set forth in the 
Scripture not statically, but dynamically ; not In mere 
abstract conception, but as the rule of spiritual forces 
and the rationale of spiritual events. 

This exposition was given forth in connection with 
the case of men and societies actually existing In the 
apostles' days. And so we find in the Scriptures not 
only an enumeration of articles of faith, but a directive 
exhibition of them, fitted, as nothing else could be, to 
give us a grasp of their true meaning, and to call out 
our interest in them. 

With these views we may connect the fact that there 
is a distribution of doctrine among the inspired servants 
of God, so that we find ourselves, in some respects, 
in a different region as we pass from the writings 


of one to the writings of another. Words, phrases, 
doctrines, seem to assume a new turn, and to stand In 
new relations. This is very Intelhgible, if we re- 
member that the divine fulness of the truth bears on 
human beings and their experience in ways that are 
very various. It is not a diversity in the being of 
truth that here appears, but a diversity in the manner 
of its going. The apostles, with a perfect harmony 
in the one truth, evolve, each as It was given to him, 
the bearings of what God is, and what He has done, 
on the diverse aspects of human existence, of Chris- 
tian experience, privilege, and conflict. They were 
directed to do it, so as to complete among them the 
manifestation not only of truth, but of its applications, 
which men should require. They do it with incom- 
parable freedom, fulness, power, and wealth of know- 
ledge, with a certainty and expllcitness of utterance 
which are due to the Spirit that spake by them ; so 
that, however perfect the inner harmony between 
them may be, it is very far removed from mere out- 
ward mechanical harmonizing. We apprehend it 
partially, laboriously, gradually ; not without the mix- 
ture of error, prejudice, and manifold imperfections. 
But we shall find that pregnant revelation ever fresh 
and adequate, able to guide the men of God at all new 
stages of the Church's history, until the very end shall 



FROM the topic of doctrine as it is delivered in 
the Scriptures, I pass now to that of doctrine 
as it is held and uttered by the believer. In passing 
to this topic, we shall do well to remember that the 
proper organ supposed to be engaged in searching the 
Scriptures, with a view to receive their teaching, is 
not merely the human intellect with its ordinary 
capacities, but the man, or the Church, considered as 
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy 
Spirit is promised to enable us to deal aright with 
Scripture teaching;^ and therefore His grace is a 
real condition of success, and an attainable aid towards 
it. In contemplating the form of human activity 
which concerns itself about doctrine, and the condi- 
tions under which that activity is exercised, we are 
to take it along with us, that the kind of success 
which we are encouraged to expect is promised to 
the spiritual man, and not to any other. 

Doctrine, as it is set forth by the believer, is not in 
all respects the very same thing with doctrine as it is 
delivered in the Scriptures. This may be argued 
from the controversies that have arisen between those 

^i John ii. 20, 27. 

Lect. IV.] DOCTRINES. 107 

who agreed in regarding the teaching of the Scrip- 
tures as authoritative. But It appears more plainly 
from the mere survey of any of the forms of doctrinal 
statement put forth by Christian men or churches. 
These do, Indeed, refer themselves to Divine Reve- 
lation as their source and authority ; yet they are 
all visibly distinguishable from that Revelation, and 
stand at its bar to be judged. The case then stands 
thus : It Is the part of the believer to receive as fully 
as may be the effect of that Scripture teaching, the 
character of which has in the last two Lectures 
been Imperfectly described. This teaching, passing 
Into his mind, takes shape there. As a matter of 
fact, we find that one of the results hence arislne is 
the formation of doctrinal views and utterances. The 
believer Is found sorting out and collecting what he 
judges to be truth, on points with respect to which 
the Scriptures, as he believes, have been teaching 
him. The statement of these conclusions is doctrine, 
in the sense In which it is now to occupy our atten- 
tion. Doctrines, therefore, for our present purpose, 
are determinations of what men are led to hold to be 
true on the authority of Revelation. I say deter- 
minations, meaning to indicate that what claims the 
character of doctrine must have some clearness and 
precision. It must mark off what we mean from 
what we do not mean. Vague and dumb impressions 
existing in the mind are an extremely real and power- 
ful element In human life. Such Impressions form a 
part, and are far from being an inconsiderable or un- 
important part, of the total effect due to divine revela- 
tion as it works In the world. They do not, however. 


come into consideration formally under the head of 
doctrine, although they may be all entitled to regard 
when we consider the conditions under which doctrine 
is moulded and developed.^ 

But in the sense now indicated, the right of doctrine 
to exist at all, or to claim an important place in the 
sphere of religious life, may be questioned. It may 
be said, Since we already have the teaching of the 
Scriptures, — teaching expressed in familiar human 
speech, yet incomparable and divine, — what are we 
to think of this new form of things, this ' doctrine,' 
in the sense and form in which it now comes into 
view ? By what warrant or necessity does it arise ? 
Why should we not be found, all of us, adhering 
merely to those words, and phrases, and sentences, 
and contexts, in which we profess to have the things 
most surely believed among us, declared by men 
who spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance ? 
Whence only this activity which arrives at doctrines 
in the sense just explained ? 

In answer to this question, one might be tempted 
to plead the rights of science. Wherever there is 
knowledge, it may be argued, there is room for a 
science to sift and arrange it, to show its warrants, 
and estimate the decree of evidence of its various 
details, and trace its pervading principles. There 
is therefore room for science in the department of 
knowledge into which Scripture leads. Theology is 
a science, and doctrines and systems are its results. 
The scientific activity is as valid here as anywhere ; 
the service of science is a tribute due to Christian 

• 1 Note A. 

Lect. IV.] CASE SUPPOSED. 109 

truth, and Christian doctrine is a department of 
science. I mention this, for the purpose of saying 
that it is not on this view that I am disposed to 
rely. I admit, indeed, that Christian knowledge, in 
all its degrees and stages, has a relation to science 
which it cannot and need not disclaim. For science 
is nothing else than the most strict, just, and thorough 
knowledge of things, according to their proper evi- 
dence, principles, and laws, which each department 
is found to exhibit. And all knowledge ultimately 
is amenable to those laws to which science is amen- 
able, and which science studies most perfectly to 
obey. However, I do not think that it is the scien- 
tific interest which primarily calls out Christian 
doctrine ; nor is it an obligation to comply with 
the formal conditions of science, which this activity 
properly obeys ; nor do I think that the scientific 
impulse has been, historically, the creative force in 
this department. The results of this activity, as I 
believe, lend themselves to scientific treatment ; how 
they do so we may afterwards consider. But I think 
it more fitting to approach the subject by an humbler 
avenue, viz. by considering what is involved in earnest 
dealing with the element of teaching in the Scripture, 
considered simply as so much teaching which it is 
binding on us to receive, and which ought to be 
dealt with in a manner corresponding to its own 
nature and genius. 

For the illustration of this point, let me abstract 

from history so far as to suppose the case of a single 

1 mind dealing alone with Scripture teaching. In 

point of fact, the experience of believers is not solitary, 


but social ; and great importance attaches to the 
manner in which they come to an understanding with 
one another, and influence one another, in this matter 
as in others. However, those elements in the case 
which come into view when the Church is considered 
collectively, may have their place afterwards. The 
hypothetical case of a single disciple is better to 
begin with. 

In the Scriptures, then, such a disciple has the teach- 
ing which has been described. He may in one degree 
or another take up the meaning of it, and receive 
the impressions it is fitted to make. Its great array 
of lessons may gain upon him from day to day. He 
may feel himself standing before the great Teacher, 
or before His servants, hearkening to the teaching 
which they utter, sometimes perceiving a clear mean- 
ing, sometimes failing to catch the meaning, some- 
times with a mixed consciousness of perception and 
failure. Amplify this sort of experience as much as 
you choose, and you will t^ave, after all, but one aspect 
of the case. So far, he is mainly passive. But he 
cannot be allowed to be only passive. He has his 
own history to accomplish, inwardly and outwardly, 
— considering, choosing, acting. And the Revelation 
with which he deals, as was remarked in a previous 
Lecture, will not let him be only passive. It solicits, 
awakes, exhorts him ; by influences which seize him 
on every side, it sets him in motion. He is called 
out to deal with this world of life and light, to take 
possession of it, to give effect to it. If it acts upon 
him, it is to the effect of leading him to react. Among 
the other faculties of the man, those which deal with 


truth are called out. And they are called into an 
exercise which is not merely recipient, but interroga- 
tive, investigative, positive. 

Called out thus to deal with the meaning of the 
Divine Revelation, the disciple must deal with the 
various elements which it combines. There is what 
it recounts historically, there is what it would have 
him think doctrinally, there is what it would have 
him feel experimentally, there is what it would have 
him become and do practically. We have seen in 
what a remarkable and enero^etic combination these 
elements are presented in Scripture, each interpret- 
ing", each reinforcing the other. Even such a com 
bination in the result, in human souls, is no doubt the 
last end aimed at by Him who brings this manifold 
influence to bear on men. The Bible was never 
intended to be treated as only a repository of materials 
out of which to make doctrines. The total effect due 
to the Divine Revelation (supposing the influence of 
the Holy Spirit to be present) is the illuminated 
life — Is the quickened and purified man — is the har- 
monized and hallowed Church ; or rather, it is the 
ideal towards which these tend, but which they never 
reach in this world. That is the end. But the 
endeavour to enter into possession of the Revelation 
Is the way. In that endeavour we must deal with its 
various elements distinctly ; we must ponder them 
one by one, that we may combine them in the end ; 
we cannot grasp them all at once, so as to gauge the 
full significance of each. And so there comes into 
distinct consideration : How the Scriptures will have 
me think, as well as how they will have me feel or 


act. If I omit any leading element, or if I forget 
the great living combination in which all the elements 
should go forth again, so much the worse for me. 
Meanwhile it is a great part of the disciple's business 
to make sure of what the Scripture teaches. It is 
all the more important if the Divine Revelation be 
so eminently a revelation of truths and principles as 
it was maintained to be in the preceding Lecture. 

Now, let this be observed : In any earnest effort 
to take in and appropriate the teaching of some one 
wiser than ourselves, one of the first steps we take is 
to put the meaning, as we understand it, into our own 
words. We put it into words of our own, and we 
bring the statement to the teacher, or to the book, if it 
be a book, for comparison. ' You teach this, as it 
appears to me ; — is it so ?' This putting of it in our 
own words belongs to the process of putting the mean- 
ing which we have perceived into relation with the 
habits of our own thought, and with the materials, the 
contents of our own minds. It is our way of taking 
possession of it, and making it our own. When we 
have so done, then we eno-ag-e in scrutinies and com- 
parisons, with a view to make sure that the meaning, 
thus re-embodied, is the same that was delivered — the 
same, or a part of it, at any rate, if not the whole. 

If, now, the matter be a matter in which the ideas 
are simple and capable of instant and complete defini- 
tion, — if, for instance, the axioms and the elementary 
propositions of mathematics be the subject of instruc- 
tion, then we may speedily make sure of the whole 
meaning conveyed by the teacher's words. Though 
he is wiser than we, we have possession of these 


propositions as completely as he has himself. More- 
over, we discern the perfect fitness of his words and 
sentences to measure out exactly so much meaning 
and no more. We therefore dismiss our own less 
perfect expressions, and adopt his, because we have 
thoroughly made them ours. The meaning and the 
expressions are both alike thoroughly appropriated, 
and the perfect fitness of the one to the other is 
ascertained. Our meaning is exactly equal to the 
teacher's meaning ; and the words are the fittest of 
all to measure out that very meaning, whether as his 
or as ours, to all whom it may concern. They are 
especially fitted to record it to our own memory, and 
keep it clear to our own understanding. Henceforth, 
therefore, we rest in them. 

But it is not necessarily so. If the teaching be of such 
a kind that the sense of the terms has to be collected 
from a usage, various and impressive, associated with 
many feelings and experiences, and from a long 
historical development ; and If the teaching, touching 
many points which are wonderfully related together, 
interprets Itself, not to one single category of the 
understanding alone, but to the whole man, and 
makes many of its approaches through the experi- 
ence, and conscience, and heart. In short, the case 
is altered if the teaching be such as the Scripture 
presents to us. In this case, indeed, I am pressed by 
far more powerful motives than In the other, to give 
to myself strict and full account of the various ele- 
ments of the world of truth which is to form a part 
of me, and of which I am to form a part. Also the 
teaching may possess me, instantly, with a clear 



impression of some leading truths, not as yet perhaps 
all sharply defined, but already filling my mind with 
their meaning, and operating within me. And I may 
already see the general direction of many a path of 
contemplation which opens out before me. But yet, 
when I proceed to put into my own words the mean- 
ing I can gather, I find myself otherwise situated than 
in the case supposed before. 

For, first of all (granted that I am enabled to avoid 
error in the process), this meaning of mine, which I 
express in words of my own, is not equal to my 
Teacher's meaning, expressed in His words on the 
same point. It is a part of His meaning. It is, pos- 
sibly, for me the essential part. It makes me parti- 
cipant with Him in His truth, not only in a measure, 
but in such a measure that I have solid footinof in it 
henceforward. Yet my meaning, expressed in the 
way which most naturally measures out my thought 
for me, differs, at all events, by defect from His 
meaning, set forth in His words, in the way suitable 
for Him. Therefore I cannot take His words as the 
mere exact determination of my meaning. There is 
no such equation established between what I have 
learned on the one hand, and my Teacher's words on 
the other, as existed in the former case. 

IMoreover, in His words, commonly, the teaching 
appears implicated, more or less, with its significance 
for feeling, and life, and worship. In which more 
complete form I also probably should habitually 
present it if I were inspired, or if in me the unity of an 
enlightened understanding, and a sanctified heart, and 
a will at one with all goodness, were finally attained. 


But as it is, I have to make my way into it, by 
realizing the separate elements of the case. I have to 
isolate and make sure of the exact fact, or relation, or 
principle to be believed for truth ; and for the purpose 
of doing this, and presenting to myself what I seem 
to have learned on this side, I must select words 
which enable my mind to mark how it is taught to 
think, as well as how it is taught to feel or act. I am 
not to forget the great living combination into which 
they all should go forth again ; if I do, the loss shall 
be sore indeed. Meanwhile it is a great part of my 
business to know well what the Scripture teaches. 
It is all the more so, if the revelation be indeed so 
eminently a revelation of truths and principles, as it 
was maintained to be in last Lecture. 

Still further, the whole of truth on any point which 
the Scriptures give, they give not always in complete 
single statements ; but in various statements which 
explain, and guard, and complete one another. Now, 
to settle what I have gained, I must gather up and 
present to myself the joint effect of the statements, so 
far as I have understood them. But this must be 
done by summing up that understanding of mine in 
words fitted to express it. 

And this is all the more inevitable, for the following- 
additional reason. In trying to penetrate into the 
meaning of the Scripture teaching, and to make sure 
of what it is, it has proved practically impossible to 
do otherwise than raise points, and questions about 
points, which serve as ladders or stepping-stones to 
climb up by, or waymarks where the paths divide. 
They are points about which Scripture has doctrine 


to teach ; but It is not so taught that it can be dis- 
entangled and made sure of without difficulty ; neither 
can it be easily ascertained and explained by us, unless 
we use for the purpose ideas suggested not so much by 
the direct teaching of Scripture, as by the necessities, 
or possibly the infirmities, of our own understanding. 
For example, the Scripture has very little to say, 
hardly anything, directly, about any such idea as that 
of ' person ' or ' personality.' It is doubtful whether 
the Bible has any word that precisely expresses that 
conception. It teaches in a way so concrete and 
historical, that the doctrine is virtually given without 
the aid of any such abstraction. But we find it needful 
at a certain point to raise questions about divine 
persons, about the person of our Lord Jesus. We 
find immediately, that for our purpose it is an imper- 
fect and provisional conception which is furnished to 
us by that word. We are obliged carefully to re- 
member, that it is only with certain precautions, and 
deductions from, or qualifications of, its ordinary sense 
that we use it. Still, if we are to fix the sense in 
which we are to take many a Scripture teaching, we 
find that we must help ourselves by this conception, 
and raise alternatives about it between which we 
must choose, e.g. as to Godhead — as to our Lord's 
person. But in doing so, of course, we resign our- 
selves to express a meaning which we have gathered 
from the Scriptures, as our conclusion, to be measured 
forth and expressed in otir words. 

It does not follow, from what has now been said, 
that we are excluded from the use of the very words 
of Scripture for the' purpose of determining and ex- 


pressing the convictions which Scripture teaching 
may have produced within us. I may prefer to utter 
the doctrine which I hold in some sentence of the 
Scripture, which appears to me to declare adequately 
and precisely just what I mean to say. I may feel 
persuaded that the result of all my investigations is, 
simply, that I attach a more just and full sense to this 
sentence, and can now utter It, in its Intended mean- 
ing, as my own faith. In expressing a doctrinal con- 
viction so, I have the advantage of using words w^iich 
are authoritative, and which are fragrant also with 
the associations that cleave to Scripture speech. This 
is true ; although it is also true, that the use, on 
occasion, of other words, is suitable, not merely for 
the purpose of coming to an understanding with other 
minds, but in order to come to an understanding with 
my own mind. However, when the very words of 
some sentence of the Scripture are used by me, for 
the precise purpose of measuring and setting forth 
my conviction, they assume a new relation. Their 
sense now, and for this precise purpose, is measured 
by the definitions which I attach to them. These 
definitions, of course, I profess to be able to vindicate 
as just and accurate. 

The tendency of these observations Is to fix In our 
minds this view, viz. that doctrines, as they come into 
consideration in this Lecture, are the effect on believ- 
ing minds due to one great element in Divine Revela- 
tion, separately considered and attended to. As held 
and uttered by the believer and the Church, doctrine 
Is formally human. It is the human echo to the 
divine voice. It is the human response to the divine 


message. It is the human confession of the divine 
gift. It is our holding up as ours the truth, made 
ours, which the Father of Lights deHvered to us 
as His. True, in the case of all doctrine justly 
gathered, and especially in the case of the great lead- 
ing doctrines, the distinction is mainly formal. Still 
it is better to recognise it clearly. 

The meaning of the Scripture teaching, as it delivers 
the doctrine that is according to godliness, is what 
God meant, what the inspired man meant, or the 
Spirit in which he spake. The meaning of the 
doctrine, as we confess it, is what we mean, what men 
mean, what the Church means. Therefore, when we 
inquire into the sense of the teaching as delivered by 
God, we search the Scripture (using all appropriate 
human aids) that we may more justly understand it. 
But when we inquire into the sense of the teaching as 
it is a doctrine believed in the world, we go into the 
field of historical theology, that we may more exactly 
determine what has been intended by believers and 
the Church in their successive utterances. 

This distinction is in its own nature pervading. 
But in following the series of doctrines, we shall find 
it sometimes, for practical purposes, so nearly vanish- 
ing, that it would be little better than pedantry to 
refer to it ; sometimes becoming so obvious as to be 
of great importance. As to the main articles of the 
Scripture message, the unambiguous statements of 
Holy Writ make their impression on the mind, at least 
on the humble and prayerful mind, so clearly, that the 
believer's thought and utterance about them is, and 
continues to be, a mere reduplication on what Scrip- 


ture has said already. Round about those articles, 
no doubt, points arise with respect to which difficulty 
may be felt, and the peculiar human process becomes 
very sensible. But as to the main things themselves, 
the identity might seem to be perfect between the 
Scripture utterance and the believer's utterance. 
What more needless, it may be said, than to run any 
fine distinction between the unity of God as taught 
in the Scriptures, and as confessed by the believer ? 
So, also, in spite of all the contradiction to which, 
unhappily, it has been exposed, the doctrine that the 
Lord Jesus is true God is merely a reiteration of state- 
ments to the same precise effect, e.g. in the fourth 
Gospel. It is of very great importance to remark this : 
for the fact that the distinction becomes so little 
obvious in regard to these points, is closely connected 
with the character of the Scriptures as a clear and 
sufficient rule of faith. At the same time, even on 
such points the distinction does not wholly vanish. 
The sense in which God is one (not e.g. the Moham- 
medan sense) has its own mystery, which we recall 
when we confess the Christian doctrine. And when 
we call Jesus God, we may well feel our incompetency 
to fill that great name with its just meaning. But 
when we try to give account to ourselves as to what 
exactly we believe on points more detailed and com- 
plex, — on points where the precise form of teaching 
must be determined by the comparison of the sense 
of many passages which throw light upon one another, 
— then we become more vividly conscious of the 
distinction which has been stated. 

Yet it need hardly be said that the distinction 


asserted implies no antagonism. The very object 
of the Scriptures as a revelation is to bring us to a 
fellowship with God in the truth. And therefore the 
meaning of the believer, as it is expressed in the 
forms by which he utters his belief, may and ought to 
agree with the meaning of the teaching which comes 
to him from on high. We cannot say that it always 
does, but It may and ought. His doctrine may be 
below the range and fulness of the Scripture mean- 
ing : It may represent one great element, severed and 
set apart, which in Scripture comes wedded to other 
elements dependent on It, and on which It depends. 
It may, in many of Its features, bear token of the 
painful process by which we climb our arduous way, 
discarding one misleading alternative after another, 
analyzing, sifting, balancing, comparing^ ere we come 
to rest In a final determination. For all that, it may, 
in its several articles, be the result legitimately due to 
the teaching received. It may express a participation 
in, and a possession of, the truth delivered, — ' the truth 
which dwelleth In us, and shall be with us for ever.' 

In point of fact. Scripture speaks of an assurance 
and certainty of knowledge as arising to believers, 
especially if they are duly profiting by the means of 
grace and by the unction of the Holy One.^ And 
the measure of agreement among all the churches in 
which the teaching is drawn from the open Bible as 
the sole authoritative source of knowledge, is experi- 
mental proof to the same effect. It proves the Scrip- 
ture to be so constructed as to make Its main meaning 
clear to docile and diligent men. 

* I John ii. 27. 

Lect. IV.] OBJECTION. 121 

It may be said, perhaps, that the distinction laid 
down between the doctrine as deHvered and the doc- 
trine as confessed rests on a confusion of thought. 
Such a distinction there is, it may be said, between 
doctrine as held and confessed by us, and the absolute 
truth as it dwells in the divine mind. But the 
absolute truth as it dwells in the divine mind is not 
here in question, but truth as dispensed, and therefore 
admeasured, in Revelation. We are here considering 
truth as it has been proposed in forms of human 
thought and feeling, clothed in human words, dwelling 
in the minds of human messengers, and bodied forth 
from their lips and pen. These human forms of 
thought and speech have been made use of with the 
utmost condescension, freedom, and plainness. Hence 
the truth bodied forth should not be represented as 
hanging over our heads, out of reach, but as conver- 
sant among us, standing on the level of our own 
minds. There is no reason, therefore, it may be 
said, why there should not be a full equation between 
the truth delivered and the truth received, at least on 
many points. There is no reason why the truth in 
the believer's mind, expressed in his doctrinal con- 
clusions, should not be so fully identical with the 
truth set forth in Scripture as to deprive the distinc- 
tion of all significance and use. Between the truth 
as it may exist in the believer's mind and as it exists 
in the divine mind, there is indeed a wide gap. But 
the precise thing which revelation has done, is to 
come across that gap, and speak wholly in the words 
of men. What is thus brought, may be wholly re- 
ceived. And, therefore, just as there is no need for 


making, and no propriety in making, a distinction 
between the meaning or sense of two believers who 
confess the same doctrine after full explanations with 
one another, though there may be shades of in- 
dividuality in the manner of conceiving of each of 
them, so also there is no ground for asserting that 
what we confess is in thought to be held apart, as 
distinct from that which God has delivered by His 

It is quite true that truth as it is in the divine 
mind is one thing, and truth as it is in Revelation is 
another. It may be admitted, that whatever is em- 
bodied in the forms of human thought and feeline, i-e. 
in human words, is intrinsically capable of being ap- 
prehended by human minds, although it should be re- 
membered that many human words (such, for example, 
as the word God itself) designate things of which we 
have a knowledge that is imperfect, often most imper- 
fect ; and therefore those words, incapable of perfect 
definition, bring us into the presence of mystery as 
often as they are used. But that is not the main 
thing to be attended to. What is maintained is, that 
the use of human words, of forms of human thought 
and feeling, in the Scriptures, is such that the teaching, 
while in its own nature attainable, or commensurate 
with human faculties (for this is implied in Revela- 
tion), is never in point of fact fully attained. The 
attainment of the Church remains always below it. 

This could not be asserted if the teaching of Scrip- 
ture were to be regarded as only a lofty utterance of 
the experience, the views and feelings of believing 
men ; if inspiration were nothing more than a power- 


ful influence of the same kind with that which operates 
in every behever. In that case, there could be no 
reason for beheving that the sense cannot be com- 
pletely apprehended by some in every age. In point 
of fact, as is now more fully recognised than it used to 
be, it was generally through a powerful experience of 
truth that the inspired writers were fitted to declare 
it ; and it is in the line of uttering what they arrived 
at by human tracks of thought and feeling that they 
teach us. But in this, and beyond it, there is a higher 
form of influence : it both formed the experience and 
guided the utterance ; and it constitutes the Scriptures 
a divine revelation. The effect of this influence is, to 
charge the words with a weight and compass of mean- 
ing only to be perfectly apprehended when we have 
perfectly entered into the spirit of the Scriptures ; or, 
to express It otherwise, the forms of human thought 
and feeling — -capable only of carrying a measure of 
divine truth— have been used with a supreme wisdom 
and erace, so that their measure of communication 
still outgoes our measure of attainment and receptivity, 
and leaves us ' searching.' 

This is best brought into view by considering the 
case of the Lord Jesus Christ. His words were 
human words, and indeed of the plainest ; and the 
meaning they carried was such as existed in His 
mind in the form of human thought. However, it 
was human thought of such an order, and so related 
to eternal truth, and the words employed were chosen 
with so supreme dominion over the resources of ex- 
pression, that while the history of His Church has 
been all along a history of human minds entering into 


His mind, it remains that there is a contrast between 
the plenitude of His utterance and the measure of 
our insight. None of us has as yet entered into the 
full meaning genuinely intended and uttered, in so 
much as the one sentence : ' Blessed are the poor in 
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' But the 
distinction applies, not so much to the sense of single 
sentences, as to the sense of the whole teaching, in 
the complex relation to one another of its various 
parts and utterances. 

What is asserted is, that while all believers enter 
into the expressed mind of Christ, so that they are in 
real and essential agreement \vith Him ; and while, 
also, amid all varieties of attainment, their actual, or 
at least their possible, agreement w^ith one another 
is such as to make it reasonable to regard them all 
as standing on common ground, and in a common 
attitude, there remains a disparity between them all, 
as to their attainment on the one hand, and their 
Teacher, as to His communication, on the other hand, 
— a disparity which is never to be forgotten. So that 
the measure of His communication is the Ideal or the 
p-oal to which all the Christians and all the asfes tend 
variously, but always w^Ith a distance and a short- 
coming. There is a difference between the measure 
of attainment of an average believer, and that, let us 
say, of a Luther or an Athanasius. But this differ- 
ence, very considerable In Its own place, vanishes in 
comparison with that which obtains between the 
supreme wisdom and fulness of the Lord's communi- 
cation, and the attainment of any or all of us. In 
presence of this teaching, the position of all may be 


regarded as a common position, and we all are called 
upon to pray, Open mine eyes, that I may see wonder- 
ful things out of Thy law. 

So much has been said to illustrate and fix the con- 
ception of the manner in which doctrine should be 
conceived to emerge from the contact of the disciple's 
mind with the Divine Revelation, — doctrine, that is to 
say, considered formally as ours. Now here it may 
be said, ' If you have given a true account of what it 
is, and how it arises, one might expect it to take a 
more humble place, and to be more transient in its 
character, than it is. To put the meaning in your own 
words, — as a disciple does, — that may be very well. 
But having done that, and got every good of the pro- 
cess which it can impart, would it not be a step further, 
to leave your own words again, and enter on the very 
words of Scripture as better than yours, and as quite 
able to hold any valid meaning of yours, however 
much they may contain that is yet beyond you ?' 
Well, I reply, so every wise Christian does. From 
his own words, and from men's words, doctrinal or 
practical, he comes back to the Scripture words, 
which, with all their unfathomed depth, are simpler 
and more effectual than any words of his. But there 
is nothinof here to throw doubt on the use or to 
discredit the function of doctrine. 

For let it be remembered, that it never was in- 
tended that believing men should be exercised merely 
in the way of rehearsing the teaching of Scripture, in 
any of its departments. They were intended so to 
work upon it, and so to have it working in them, as to 
reprod2ice it, so that every form of thought and every 


kind of illustration which their minds and their expe- 
rience could furnish should lend itself to the service. 
Just so, a man must reproduce in works of his own, 
often decided on amid doubt and under temptation, 
the practical teaching of the Scriptures. Let a man 
be wakened up to any intensity of interest in the word 
of the Lord, and forthwith the process begins, and, 
according to the cast of his genius and training, out 
flow the explanations and illustrations which tell us 
what he is making of it. He does not substitute these 
for the Bible. They are his tribute to the Bible, 
or rather to the speaking Lord whose message it 
records. This is, beyond all comparison, worthier 
than if a man should rehearse only in Scripture say- 
ings what Scripture teaches him. It involves a far 
intenser exercise of mind ; it implies far more devoted- 
ness to the truth, more thorough and inward con- 
versancy with it. And in so far as regards doctrine. 
It is worth observing, that what renders the process 
possible, and constrains me to it as inevitable, is just 
the structure of the Bible, as it is not a syllabus 
of dopfmatic statements. If revelation delivered to 
me an article of faith, simply and only as a bare 
formal proposition,^ I might be content to use it simply 
by cherishing in my mind that mysterious proposition 
as a pure dogma, affirming a mysterious predicate of a 
mysterious subject. I might think that the best and 
safest way. So I should believe it very much as I 

^ But in that case, consider the impossibihty of getting the itrfiis in 
which the proposition is expressed. The sense of the terms opens itself 
to us from the various usage of Scripture, with its historical and experi- 
mental cross-lights. No abstract definitions would supply the absence 
of this. 


might believe an equation of two unknown quantities, 
thatyCr=jj'. The Bible will not let me do that. It is 
far too intensely faithful to the conception of truth, as 
an actual sense and meaning that passes from mind 
to mind, and becomes an inward possession, a light. 
Inevitably I am set agoing, and that with great 
earnestness, and with the sense of having something 
to say, to give account to myself and others of what 
this manifold teachings leads me to believe. 

Yes, it will be said ; nor is that objected to. Let 
men declare their minds freely, as a Christian man 
does in conversation, as a preacher does in his sermon. 
But how will you justify these set statements of 
doctrine, these exact and careful definitions ? They 
do not serve their turn and pass, like a Christian 
man's remark : they are preserved, and recurred to, 
and handed down, and made the pivots of thought 
and the lawg^ivers of life. Here there is eiven to 
doctrine a fixity and persistence, as well as a promi- 
nence and influence, which do not agree with the 
former modest suggestions of the way in which it 
should be conceived to arise and to be made use of. 
In reply, it is admitted that human definitions of doc- 
trine have often been put out of their place, used for 
ends and in a way which I certainly shall not under- 
take to vindicate. But it is maintained that a very 
assiduous care In the formation, verification, and ap- 
plication of such statements of doctrine, pertains to 
earnest and thorough dealing with the teaching of 
Scripture, and is called for by the necessities of the 
human mind. 

This is true, whatever be the office or end which 


we assign to our doctrinal statements. They may be 
regarded as summarizing (putting in summary form) 
the effect on our minds due to various Scripture 
statements, which occur in different connections, and 
which complete and limit one another. Or we may 
view them as analyzing that complex teaching which 
was described in last Lecture ; so that, in addition to 
the broad and vivid impression which it makes, we 
penetrate into it to single out one element, and lay it 
by itself, as so much truth which we have been led to 
believe. Or, again, we may consider them as m.easur- 
ing how far we have been able to go on those topics 
on which Scripture teaching soars upwards, and sug- 
gests relations stretching far up out of sight. Or they 
may serve to bring out the connections indicated in 
the Scripture between truths that lend hand to hand, 
and give and take from one another, and join into an 
ordered intelligible whole, with inward harmony. Or 
I may find in them the means by which I bring the 
effect of Scripture teaching into comparison with the 
whole world of impressions, or views, or theories 
bred within me, or offered to me, in order that I may 
discern what must be dismissed, and what reformed, 
if the truth according to godliness is to bear rule 
within me. Whether these or whatever other offices 
be assigned to doctrinal statements, they arise out of 
necessities of the human mind, when brought into 
close and earnest dealing with the Scriptures. Now, 
when ripe results of this kind are reached, when 
modes of view and of statement that do this office 
well, have once been shaped out, they continue fit to 
serve the ends for which they were educed at first. 


The value that may attach to them cannot be com- 
pletely estimated until we speak of the Church, and 
for the present we are supposing the case of the 
individual. But what of ripe result the individual 
thus attains, result in which on repeated trial he still 
rests, he ought not to cast away. It is the attainment 
which the past has yielded, and which the future 
should employ. 

At this point I should take into view, more dis- 
tinctly than has yet been done, the peculiar influence 
and office of the Church. But before doing so, I 
wish to touch briefly — too briefly, it must be — on the 
conditions under which the exercise of the believing 
mind in reference to doctrine proceeds. Two condi- 
tions were mentioned in a former Lecture, as charac- 
terizing the method in which Revelation is delivered. 
The same considerations come into view again, when 
we contemplate the process of the believing mind in 
dealing with Revelation. They operate in the way of 
stimulating, and guiding, and guarding against error, 
the whole process of which we have been speaking 

We saw that the foundation of the Scripture 
method is historical : a great history of divine trans- 
actions is set forth ; it is bodied out to the eye with 
the utmost distinctness, and it rises to the crisis of its 
import and its interest in the history of our Lord. 
Now it is this, first of all, that lays hold of the 
disciple, and holds him to the end ; and it does it in 
such a way as to question him that he may think, and 
yet steady him that he may not go far astray. For 
this history is not a spectacle to gaze at. It claims 


part In us, and we are called on to claim our place 
in it. It is to become, as it were, a part of the dis- 
ciple's own history, an earlier chapter of his own 
life, the very fountain from which that life derives. 
He is to give effect to it as bearing on himself; he 
is to realize the results of it, as daily coming into 
reckoning in the progress of his own affairs. So, 
then, questions arise such as these : What representa- 
tions of it he is to carry into the particulars of his own 
life ; what relations he is to discern in it ; what influ- 
ences he is to ascribe to it ; what results and fruits 
he may expect from it. These questions have to be 
actively met, the answers to them have to be taken 
in hand, and carried consciously with him through his 
life. He cannot treat such questions as dim and dis- 
tant. They keep rising out of the facts of Scripture, — 
facts so touching, vivid, familiar, — facts that take place 
as realities to the believing mind, and are felt to be 
charged with a great weight of divine meaning. So 
he is constrained to present to himself at least some 
distinct thought of their meaning and bearing. All 
this awakens, questions, stimulates the mind. Then, 
on the other side, whether his attainment in this 
direction be greater or less, a steadying and guiding 
influence is assured to him. That great array of 
monumental facts has been the means of saving many 
a man from the bewildering influence of his own 
speculations. As a believer dwells on what is dis- 
closed of the character, and ways, and mighty acts 
of the Lord, from the beginning down to the coming, 
and death, and rising of the Son of God, he cannot 
easily mistake the general drift ; he cannot easily 


misconstrue the great principles and connections; he 
cannot easily take flights of speculation that should 
carry him away from the faith by which men live. 

Again, we saw that Christian doctrine is always 
delivered to be the light and guide of Christian life. 
The disciple finds himself called to practice and 
experience on the basis of the truth announced to 
him. He is called not merely to outward activities, 
but to the fellowship of an inward experience, which, 
with whatever diversities, is common in its general 
character to all believers. It is a life, a new life, 
the highest life. Faith, love, hope, repentance, and 
the rest, come into experience in connection with the 
objects and the truths revealed. Under the influence 
of the Spirit of God, the disciple finds this life a 
reality, and he feels it summoning him more and 
more to live it. But it is a life in the truth. To 
go forward in it, a man must realize the relations 
in which he stands, and the nature of that great 
world of Revelation in which he claims a part. 
So that here again he is stimulated, and yet here 
again he is steadied and restrained. For the truth 
is truth to live by. It must be granted, indeed, 
that men have erred in taking leave to dictate boun- 
daries to God's teaching from a narrow experience. 
Yet surely there is a legitimate guiding influence 
to be found in this quarter. There is a verification 
of the truth in the life, and a congruity between the 
two, that moderates the boldness of theory, and recalls 
from undue licence either of thought or of feeling. 

Indeed, Christianity, great and various as it is, is 
one whole. It is all of a piece. The whole of it 


may be said to be in the history, virtually given there. 
The whole of it may be said to be in every true 
Christian experience, virtually given and realized 
there. The whole Christian system is promised by 
the one, is demanded by the other. It does not 
follow, however, that human faculties can construe 
the developed Christianity, or the Christian system 
out of the history, far less out of the experience. But 
it does follow that the one and the other operate as 
guarding and guiding influences to keep believing men 
in the line of the genuine intent of Scripture teaching. 
I must not be tempted to follow out the discussion 
of the relation in which these two sources of influence 
stand to what may be called the pure dogmatic of 
the Scriptures, and especially to the pure dogmatic 
process in the believing mind. The subject is full 
of interest, and "leads into a variety of curious matter, 
both psychological and historical. Here it may be 
enough to say, that in so far as the dogmatic process 
offers an analogy to the scientific, or in so far as it 
takes on the character of science when more strictly 
and critically pursued, it may be conceived to find in 
these two fields what every human science needs, viz. 
its experimental verifications. Coming in contact with 
these, it comes out of the region of the abstract or 
of the unseen, and is tested against facts. The 
analogy is not perfect, indeed. There are differences 
between the cases on which I shall not enter. But 
still the statement has its truth. The theology must 
be such as shall enter into the great works of the 
Lord, as a key into the wards. And it must be 
such as can be preached, and lived, and prayed. 


These necessities have sometimes constrained the 
working spirit of theological systems to return into 
the Scripture track, even when their letter has per- 
sisted in going astray/ 

But at this point it becomes necessary to contem- 
plate more directly the calling and office of the Church, 
as these bear upon the subject of this Lecture. 

Generally, what has been said of the individual 
believer is applicable also to the Church, or to any of 
the societies which, as branches of the Church, claim 
to represent the Church in their own extent, and 
therefore own the obligations and claim the character 
of the Church. The function, and the kind of attain- 
ment, which have been spoken of with reference mainly 
to the individual believer, pertain still more manifestly 
to the company of believers. The Church has, or, to 
put it at the lowest, may have its common mind : for 
the members, however they differ from one another, 
all share the common conditions of human thought ; 
and they all listen on substantially common ground 
to the revealed testimony, adapted to those common 
conditions. They exchange influences. They share 
attainments, which therefore become common. And 
when the Church sets forth a collective utterance on 
doctrine, she is to be understood as setting forth in 
her own language what she judges with a common 
consent to be the teaching of Revelation. In this 
effort, all, it may be, have benefited by the common 
ministry of all ; the blessing jointly sought may crown 
the work with special success, and the result may be 
very ripe, safe, and profitable. But the Church is 

1 Note B. 


neither perfect nor infallible. She is subject in her 
own way to the common imperfections on account 
of which each believer learns but partially, and his 
attainments are in some respects provisional. The 
Church embodies only on a larger scale the relation 
of the believing mind to the inspired Scriptures. 

There is, however, this important difference, that 
the various functions relating to doctrine, which in 
the case of an individual are supposed to be all per- 
formed by himself, are eminently taken up in the Church 
by different individuals. The parts are distributed. 
Special aptitudes suggest different offices. There are 
fresh, investigative men, that seek for knowledge as for 
silver, and search for her as for hid treasure : these 
bring the ore clearly forth to many a mind that would 
have worked slowly and feebly for it, had it worked 
alone. There are the men who cling to the thoughts 
and the words which the past has delivered : these 
detain before the general mind the significance of 
teaching, which many, on account of its very famili- 
arity, might be ready to let slip as unimportant. There 
are representative minds, that give voice to well- 
weighed, many-sided deliverances^ deeper and wider 
than most could provide for themselves, yet such that 
most find satisfaction and rest in them. There are the 
question-raising minds : these take the doubts that 
may occur to the individual inquirer, and turn them 
into bold theories, so as to present in the sharpest way 
the questions that must be solved. And there are, of 
course, the sequacious or acquiescent minds — those 
which in this department at least are urged to no great 
activity, and feel no great wants. 


All this, however, amounts to no more than to 
say that, in the actual fellowship of the Church or 
Churches, persons will be found, in whom each tend- 
ency or aptitude is represented, that contributes to 
doctrinal investigations or doctrinal determinations. 
But the Church acts more definitely and directly in 
this department, in virtue of its peculiar form as a 
society, and in virtue of the office which it has to 

The Church of Christ is a community, the members 
of which are called out and called together by the 
common call to Christ; and claiming relation to Him, 
they claim and confess relation to one another, and 
interest in one another. This mutual relation and 
interest come to light in connection with the Church's 
special calling, which may be described in this way, 
viz. that the Lord has given to the Church truth to 
be confessed and proclaimed, and work to be done. 
In the use and enjoyment of the spiritual life which 
they have in Christ, and in which they are to grow, 
the Church through all its members is to be about its 
office. To confirm and build up the society, to pro- 
mote the edification of its members, and to fit it for its 
functions, the Church has received appropriate gifts 
and institutions. The nature, ends, and means of the 
society shape the consciousness of mutual interest and 
mutual relation which the members of it ought to 
cherish, and which, in some degree at any rate, they 
cannot help entertaining. All this, in general, holds 
of the Church ; and the same holds proportionally of 
all the smaller societies into which it is distributed, 
so far as they can vindicate for themselves a genuine 


interest in the calling, the faith, and the work which 
characterize the Church of Christ on earth. 

This supposed, then it may be remarked, first, that 
all thought and expression of a doctrinal kind on the 
part of individual believers is strongly influenced by 
the relation in which they stand to the Church or 
Christian community. 

The primary interest which a believer has in con- 
templating revealed trnth, is that he may know the 
mind of Christ, revealed to him by his Lord for faith 
and obedience. But a secondary stimulus which 
operates in rousing and directing more particular re- 
search, is the consciousness of having to reckon with 
other minds, including those of former generations as 
well as of the present. That others have been and are 
engaged in the same contemplation, by the same right 
which the individual believer pleads for himself; that 
they have been attaining their measure of success by 
the same blessing; that the results of their devout 
thoughts may and should be compared with the re- 
sults of his devout thoughts ; that consent and harmony 
in the faith, under the teaching of the same Spirit, is 
one of the forms of Christian fellowship and com- 
munion ; — all this is an appropriate encouragement 
of individual effort ; it tends powerfully to give such 
effort its special direction, because it imposes on each 
individual the necessity of weighing and testing his 
own thoughts agfainst those of his fellow-Christians. 
More than this, — the consciousness of agreement with 
other believers gives to the mind a peculiar con- 
firmation. The testimony of the Church, according to 
Protestant principles, is not the rule of faith. Yet, in 


regard to all those doctrines which explicate and deter- 
mine particularly how the great objects of faith are 
understood, we take firm possession by taking joint 
possession, by testing the movement of our own mind 
against that of others. We most fully realize our 
own meaning, by realizing it in fellowship, not neces- 
sarily with every believer, but at least with some 
believers. Nay, even when an independent mind 
differs, on some points or on many, from those with 
which it is in contact, it does not even so escape the 
influence of the Church. Such a man frames his con- 
victions with reference to those which exist around 
him ; under their pressure his are moulded. Even 
our knowledge of our own thoughts, when they are 
most original and self-assertive, depends greatly on the 
distinction which we take between them and those 
which we find existing in other minds. The mould 
in which our difference sets, is determined largely by 
the form in which the common thought is moving, or 
the form in which it has been fixed. We understand 
ourselves through comparison and contrast with 

Underlying all this is the great fact, that we all re- 
ceive through the Church, and therefore in conformity 
with the faith prevailing in the Church, our training in 
the knowledge of Christianity. With the Scriptures, 
there comes over to us the outline of that which the 
Church believes to be taught there, as distinguished 
from what the Church regards as misconstruction and 
misbelief It follows that, whatever may be the range 
of legitimate discretion afterwards to be claimed by 
the believer as he grows to manhood, and whatever 


independence he may practically assert, the influence 
of the prevailing views which trained and moulded 
him never can be dismissed. It never can be for him 
as if it had never been. Suppose him wholly to 
acquiesce — suppose him wholly and fundamentally to 
differ (which is apostasy, unless the Church herself is 
apostate) — suppose him only to vary in some particu- 
lars the mode of representing and connecting Scrip- 
ture teaching, — a regard and a relation to the form of 
doctrine to which he was delivered cannot fail to mark 
his thinking.^ 

The peculiar relation, therefore, of each member to 
all the members of the Church has this for its result, 
that the mass of conviction generally prevalent exerts 
a powerful influence on each of the members, and 
solicits and stimulates the thought of many. 

But the ties which knit the Church together, suggest- 
ing mutual dependence, and giving a right to mutual 
help, tend to communicate a special energy to the 
influence of some members of the Church. Reference 
was made a little while ago to the circumstance that, 
in the Christian society, various aptitudes exist in 
different members, fitting them to undertake different 
departments of work. But the ties which knit the 
Church together prepare the way for an intensified 
influence on the part of more powerful and gifted 
minds, — those, for instance, to keep to our present 
subject, whose specialty lies in the department of 
Christian thought and Christian teaching. For hence 
arises to them a peculiar right to be heard, as on a 
matter of common concern ; and hence arises, on the 

^ Note C. 


part of those about them, a peculiar disposition to listen, 
as on the part of those who desire all the help they 
can get. On these moral and spiritual predispositions 
is built the practical arrangement according to which 
a standing institute of Christian teachers is provided. 
Thus, whatever be the movement of those minds 
which are, or are taken to be, specially apt for discus- 
sion and teaching of doctrine, the liveliest interest in 
it, and a predisposition to take part, either by accept- 
ing or by criticising what may be proposed, is secured. 
It is secured in the case of a great number of minds, 
not fitted nor inclined to take any initiative, but com- 
petent to make their own position and convictions felt, 
when the waves of any doctrinal movement vibrate 
through the Community. 

For I fully admit that an intense exercise of mind 
about doctrines, and the defining of them, is not the 
calling, nor is it in practice the occupation, of all 
believers. Some are not greatly predisposed to it by 
faculty or taste. There are Christians whose main 
experience and duty is a glad receiving of simple 
certainties as they are directly set forth in Scripture ; 
in which method the foundations may be laid of great 
attainments in fellowship with God. However, it is a 
mistake to think that, in such cases, doctrine is dis- 
pensed with. A formation of doctrine in the mind is 
really going on, and the capacity for all the great 
doctrinal determinations is present. But they are 
partly latent ; partly they are sufficiently supplied by 
the common teaching, with which such a person finds 
no ground to quarrel. For him the mutual ministries 
of the Church supersede the necessity of strenuous 


independent activity In settling the modes In which 
doctrines are to be stated and understood. Nor is 
there anything in this mutual influence, and mutual 
dependence, which Is not perfectly congruous to what 
we find in all departments of life. No man llveth to 
himself, and no man dieth to himself; our lives are 
Intertwined. Maintaining the principle of Individual 
responsibility, we must still acknowledge a com- 
munion that will not let us live apart. Meanwhile 
what Is here specially Intended is, that the constitu- 
tion of the Church communicates impulse and energy 
to the aptitudes which are concerned with doctrine 
in the case of specially qualified minds. It does so, 
because it gives them a mission, it supplies them with 
channels of influence ; and It facilitates the testing of 
all that is proposed against the conscience, the com- 
mon convictions, and the spiritual experience of the 
general Christian community. 

Lastly, the direct work of the Church, In following 
out her proper ends as an institution, leads her to 
make doctrine a function of her own. The mere 
existence of the Church tends, as we have seen, to 
intensify the activities which are occupied about doc- 
trine ; but, besides this, doctrine must become her 
direct care. Her work requires doctrine, and her 
work intensifies and energizes the doctrinal activity. 

For the Church is a teaching Institution, having to 
provide for the information and training In Chris- 
tianity of her disciples and catechumens, of which 
training Christian truth Is one great element. And 
the Church is an uttering or proclaiming Institution, 
having to make known to the world, and to all 


whom it may concern, the message with which she 
is charged. And the Church is an institution which 
is called to self-government, and acts by way of disci- 
pline on her officers and members. A critical office 
has to be discharo-ed towards some of their manifesta- 
tions. This critical office, when it has to be applied 
to questions of faith, almost always makes severe 
demands on the capacity for wise doctrinal statement, 
and therefore applies the strongest stimulus to the 
faculties which are active in this department. In 
all these cases, the Church, whether in her corporate 
capacity or through her various agencies, has to 
convey the revealed truth to minds predisposed in 
very various ways ; to minds which, in each genera- 
tion, are moulded and seasoned by the common 
temper of their time. Now the process of interpreta- 
tion which here comes in — the making of pervious 
roads into minds for truth, into truth for minds ; the 
establishing of an understanding between the various 
minds concerned, — this is the very process of which, 
as already explained, doctrine is the indispensable 

It does not follow from this, that the activity of the 
Church must constantly tend to multiply her doctrinal 
utterances, or to maintain them at one uniform level. 
The amount of doctrinal statement for which the 
Church, or any branch of the Church, makes itself re- 
sponsible in its corporate teaching capacity, or which 
it maintains as the basis of its discipline, may grow 
larger or may grow less as the Church, or the branch 
of it in question, pursues the lines of operation above 
referred to. But when those activities are vigforous 


and healthy, they will at least ensure a care of 
doctrine. It Is conceivable that this care, becoming 
more intense, enlightened, and conscientious, may 
yet lead to the conclusion that the Church, instead 
of multiplying, should simplify and abridge the doc- 
trinal statements which form her collective utterance, 
or which direct and sustain her discipline. Only, 
if the Church's activities are in a healthy state, 
this will arise, not from doctrinal indifference, but 
from an increasing sense of the importance of doc- 
trine, and of a wise and right application of doctrine. 
It will be a new proof of care in this department; 
for, let it be repeated, the exercises of mind which ex- 
press themselves by doctrine are part of the Church's 
life. The ends of the Church, as an institute of 
Christ, fix this to be so permanently and absolutely. 
In what form this care of doctrine on the part of the 
Church should manifest itself, is matter of separate 

We must not overlook, then, and we need not 
wonder at, the immense effect due to the Church in 
securing to the subject of doctrine the place it has 
had in the Christian mind and history. We assume 
that the effect thus produced is legitimate ; that it 
is implied in the nature and design of the Christian 
society. With this legitimate effect it may well be 
that a great many illegitimate effects have been com- 
bined. It is indeed very plain that they have. 
Church action has often been utterly unjustifiable in 
the department of doctrine, as well as in others. 
Moreover, in addition to all particular cases of mis- 
1 See Lecture VI., infra. 


take, either as to the doctrine maintained or as to the 
action taken about it, a further admission is to be 
made. A great standing source of temptation has 
opened in connection with the action of the Church, 
and in connection with the mutual ministry and the 
mutual dependence realized in the Church. There 
has been a constant tendency to allow the Church, or 
to allow agencies of one kind or other that come 
within the notion of the Christian fellowship, to inter- 
cept the fellowship with Christ, instead of helping 
and promoting it. The terrific force with which this 
tendency works in the hearts of men, is revealed in 
every page of Church history, and in the experience 
of every passing day. He knows little of his own 
heart who has not felt it. It has wrought, and it 
is working, to the effect of leading multitudes to take 
up with a professed faith on grounds which can never 
stand examination before the ultimate tribunal. I 
merely recognise this great fact here, without dis- 
cussing it further. All that need here be said, is that 
the form of evil referred to affects not doctrine only, 
but every other department of Christian life and fruit- 
bearing. Whatever the amount of the evil may be, 
it is to be overcome by faith and by truth ; but it 
is not to be overcome by denying the office of the 
Church. Meanwhile, as One shall be Judge in the 
end, who is able to disentangle each separate re- 
sponsibility, and deal with it aright, so He now pre- 
sides over the various currents of influence that are 
running in the world. And that which is committed 
to Him, He keeps perfectly. 



The line of statement which has occupied us up to 
this point tends to explain and vindicate the rise of 
great doctrinal determinations, and the importance 
attached to them. It would appear to be in the line 
of reason and of duty, that a series of positions should 
be laid down concerning God and the world ; concern- 
ing the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; 
concerning the Saviour, His person, His offices. His 
work ; concerning man as created, and as fallen ; con- 
cerning forgiveness, holiness, and eternal life ; concern- 
ing grace as it comes from God and bears on man ; 
concerning the ultimate prospects which Scripture 
discloses. Also, that these positions should be some- 
times, indeed, mere echoes of direct and numerous 
Scripture testimonies, whose obvious meaning and 
consent might be sufficiently fixed and indicated almost 
by the rehearsal of any one of them ; but also should 
be sometimes of the nature of careful determinations 
of the sense to be assigned to Scripture teaching ; or 
collection of its joint result ; or should explain the 
relation in which it stands to modes of thoucrht that 
have proved persistent in the human mind, that 
have claimed a relation to the sacred doctrine, and 
have challenged a decision upon their claims. The 
line of statement may explain how this, in general, 
should be. It was not intended to afford a criterion 
as to what the material contents of doctrine shall be, 
what shall be affirmed, and what denied. Neither 

Lect. IV.] OBJECTIONS. 145 

was it intended to supply any canon by which to deter- 
mine how far, i.e. to what degree of particularity, doc- 
trinal statements must necessarily, or may legitimately, 
proceed. I do not believe in the possibility of laying 
down any such canon. I believe that each particular 
case must be decided, as to that question of 7iieasure, 
by a discreet consideration of all the elements, 
especially of the measure of light which Scripture 
seems to afford, and the way in which it seems to have 
been intended that it should be applied. However, it 
is too plain that, on the plea of doing justice to doc- 
trine, men and churches have sadly transgressed the 
boundaries of a wise discretion. They have not only 
erred materially in some of their determinations ; but 
they have erred in propounding determinations at all, 
in cases where the individual ought not to have deter- 
mined, or where the Church ought not to have deter- 
mined. As Christians, individually and collectively, 
have thus given occasion to offence and objection in 
their doctrinal manifestations, so a disposition to take 
offence and to make objection has not been wanting. 
An opposition to doctrine exists, and may be traced 
in all degrees of strength, from a reasonable jealousy 
of doctrinal excess, or a dissatisfaction with some 
ecclesiastical ways of applying doctrinal conclusions, 
up to a conviction that all doctrinal conclusions are 
unreliable, or a conviction that the whole doctrinal 
activity Is a manifest mistake. We are led to ask, 
therefore, whether anything can be justly and use- 
fully said on the measure to be observed in doctrinal 
statements and beliefs ; and also what reply is to 
be made to the objections of those who, on various 



grounds, would subvert our confidence in doctrine 

Let us begin with the latter — with those who from 
various points of view impeach the validity and the 
value of all that can be done in this department ; not 
only charging infirmities, errors, excesses, on some or 
all of those who have laboured in it, but representing 
the very enterprise itself as in its own nature unrea- 
sonable : either so incompetent and inept, that it is a 
sheer mistake to enter on it ; or else as so precarious 
and insecure in all its results, that no great value can 
be attached to it. To save time, the special modes of 
arguing the case adopted by different classes of these 
thinkers shall not be separately dealt with ; but the 
main substance of what is common to them all shall 
be taken together, as it fairly may be. It is neces- 
sary to observe, however, that men of very different 
tendencies indeed are thus combined in one view. 
There are, on the one hand, those who really do not 
participate in the fundamental convictions of Christian 
believers. They regard those convictions as mistaken. 
In making out their case, they deny that the Scrip- 
tures should be regarded as embodying or containing a 
real revelation from God, although they may venerate 
them upon other accounts. So far as this part of 
their argument is concerned, we take no notice of it 
here. But besides this, they maintain that, whatever 
may be thought of the Scriptures, the topics with 
which theology is chiefly concerned are of such a nature 
that knowledge about them, capable of being set forth 
in definite and connected positions, is unattainable. 
Therefore, whether the Scriptures contain a revelation 


or not, they are misused when they are made the 
basis of doctrinal statements concerning supersensible 
things. This is the point at which they cross our 
path. Others, with whom we are also concerned, are 
of a wholly different class. They are devout believing 
Christians, who are far from wishing to sweep away 
the faith of the Church, who themselves receive the 
great fundamental verities, but who have been strongly 
impressed with the mischief, as they think, wrought 
by the over-activity and over-confidence of the theolo- 
gians. They think it well, therefore, to moderate the 
interest felt in dogma, and to assuage the confidence 
about it by some general refrigeratory process. With 
this view, they apply much the same considerations 
which, in the hands of another class of men, are made 
to support more sweeping conclusions. Those we 
now speak of urge the argument but half way, or three- 
quarters. They admit that we are to submit our 
minds, frankly and devoutly, to the direct teaching of 
the Scripture, as bearing to us the message of God ; 
but they maintain that, when we carry away a meaning 
or sense, made ours in the manner described above 
(p. Ill), and when we treat this as reliable knowledge, 
capable of being combined with our other knowledge 
as part of the whole, this is for the most part a delu- 
sive process. I say, for the most part; because it 
does not appear to be intended to maintain the posi- 
tion as of universal application. 

Now I think that there are two main lines of 
argument tending to the conclusions just described. 
Such arguments are drawn either from the nature 
of the sources of theology in the Scriptures, — it is 


said that they are not fitted to yield doctrinal con- 
clusions that are valid and reliable : or it is drawn 
from the nature and limits of the human faculties, — 
doctrine, it is said, is a virtual claim on the part of the 
human mind to a kind of definite and assumed know- 
ledge on divine subjects, from which it is by its own 
limits necessarily shut out. The two lines of argu- 
ment are closely connected, and often run into one 
another. But perhaps it will subserve the purpose of 
clearness that we should hold them apart. 

The first line of argument rests ultimately on this 
position, that the statements of Scripture which seem 
to support doctrinal positions are analogical only. 
The information is conveyed in terms which are 
applied by way of analogy to objects to which they 
are not applicable directly, or in the first intention. 
Now it is said, the mistake of those who form articles 
of doctrine and stand by them, is, that they take 
what is analogical as if it were direct ; they take what 
is relative as if it were absolute. They mistake what 
they are dealing with. This is not the kind of know- 
ledge that can be turned into doctrine. Between 
the truth as it is in itself, and the Scripture terms 
or expressions that convey it, there is a proportion. 
But w^hat that proportion is cannot be precisely 
determined, and we can only say that we have indica 
tions of some divine things, but that all the outlines 
are vague. To make doctrine of it, as the churches 
have done, is worse than to turn poetry into prose. 
All we have is a picture-writing : it conveys impres- 
sions useful to direct practice ; but we are not in- 
tended to presume that the pictures have prototypes 

Lect. IV.] ANALOGY. 149 

behind them that are of one pattern with them : e.g., 
when God has ascribed to Him hands and feet, no 
one now takes such passages in the anthropomorphic 
sense. But when mention is made of internal 
quahties of the divine mind, or of principles that 
regulate His procedure, it is as little reasonable to 
take the lano-uao^e in its obvious sense. There must 
or may be a likeness ; but there must, more certainly, 
be a difference between the case as it is, and the 
description of it which Scripture holds forth. And 
how great the difference may be no one can tell. 

Considerations like these are urged by some who 
accept the Scriptures as the records of a real revela- 
tion, and cherish the impressions which they produce, 
but who think it best to live in these impressions, 
without caring to settle any doctrinal questions that 
may be raised. Practically, such persons do hold 
doctrines, because it is impossible to get on without 
them ; but recoiling as they do from the form or 
substance of most doctrines usually held, they find 
it a relief to throw doubt upon the whole department. 
More consistently and energetically, the argument 
is urged by men who take a hostile attitude towards 
Christianity, though they may regard the Scriptures 
as a great work of religious genius, important to the 
highest interests of the race. In order to get the 
real meaning of them, they urge, you rnust take 
what seems to be the teaching on things unseen, 
simply as words ' thrown out ' at great objects of 
thought, believed to exist, but which no thoughts can 
compass, and no words describe. The latest labourer 
in this field, however, has very candidly admitted 


not only that the argument requires you to treat the 
Scripture writers as deceived and misled on many 
points, but that, in order to make it fully available, 
the belief in a personal God must be renounced. If 
that belief be admitted, there is a great deal, he 
admits, to be said for the position, that to deliver 
some such teaching about Him as Christians suppose, 
was really a main intention of the Scriptures. He 
therefore maintains that it was no part of the main 
intention of the Scriptures to propagate this belief, 
although it may be mixed up with their teaching, and 
no part of the essential glory and value of the Scrip- 
tures to have embodied it. ^ 

I am not going to enter, in the corner of a lecture, 
into the intricate discussions into which, as is well 
known, this argument may lead. It may give occa- 
sion to a great deal of curious investigation into the 
nature and conditions of human knowledge — border- 
ing on that last question of all questions. How do we 
know that we know ? I confess, for my own part, 
that it has always appeared to me that there is no 
peculiar obligation on Christian divinity to sustain 
the burden of these discussions, and that a very 
simple statement is enough to expose the unreason- 
ableness of trying to shut out doctrine by the aid 
of any such general and sweeping considerations. 

It is true, certainly, that Scripture, speaking to us of 
God and things divine, makes statements into which 
analogy enters as an element. But then, in the first 
place, the mass of knowledge thus given is not merely 
descriptive — not merely a set of word-pictures. It is 

^ Arnold, Literature and Dogma, p. 312. 


experimental. It is not merely delivered in proposi- 
tions, the value of whose terms might be debated, but 
also in facts. It is explicated along" the transactions 
of thousands of years, closing with the crowning trans- 
actions of our Lord's ministry. We are set to mark 
how the unseen forces and agencies interlock with 
the forces and agencies which make up our ordinary 
and palpable human experience. Now such a dis- 
cipline of experience is the commonest means to en- 
able men to estimate arigfht the meaning and amount 
of anything which is delivered to them for knowledge. 
There is not a surer way of growing to knowledge 
than is supplied by this way of imparting it. 

Further, that analogy enters into the teaching is a fact 
to be taken account of : it may well suggest some cau- 
tions and limitations. But it is also true that our whole 
knowledge of our fellow-men (and therefore of all his- 
tory), including our knowledge of our nearest friends, 
involves and rests on the analoeical. We understand 
and construe them by the analogies of our own inward 
experience. And our outward historical experience 
teaches us to know how far the presumptions based 
on those analogies may safely be carried. Our know- 
ledge, thus reached, is not at all unfit to be proceeded 
on in combination with other elements of knowledge. 
It is not what we call exact, such as our knowledge of 
the relations of number and magnitude may be. But 
it is of first-rate use and importance, and capable of 
being embodied in positions or articles of knowledge 
that are perfectly clear and perfectly reliable. 

For, indeed, the knowledge we have by analogical 
teaching is the most real of all : it approaches more 


nearly to the vivacity of a complex and full experience 
than any other, and it may be so combined and varied 
as to avoid all risk of misleading. When we speak of 
a smile of providence, or a cloud with a silver lining, or 
the innumerable laughter of the waves, or of sounding 
a trumpet before us, we get a far more vivid and true 
conception of the thing than we should do otherwise. 
Parables instil perceptions into children with an ease 
and certainty which no other method could attain. 
Nay, the best of us are glad to sit down with the chil- 
dren, and get our perceptions corrected and vitalized 
in the same way.^ 

' Yes,' it will be said, ' in this way we may receive 
the right practical impressions — no one denied it ; but 
not in this way do we receive what we can set down 
for knowledge of the things and agencies unseen. 
This is but a parable of them, in images, differing from 
the originals who can tell how much ? ' I answer. To 
which of the parts of Scripture teaching will this 
asserted character attach, which makes its value as 
knowledofe so ambiguous ? Not to the account of 
what God in point of fact has done in the earth : there 
is no reason why that should be incapable of being 
told. Not to the account of the principles on which 
He has dealt, and will deal, with men : these may be 
really made known. Neither doings nor principles, 
indeed, are revealed completely. But so far as re- 
vealed, there is nothing to hinder their being delivered 
plainly. The ambiguity then will attach to the views 
given of God Himself, His nature and attributes. 
This inscrutable and incomprehensible One, we are to 

1 Note D. 


suppose, remains unknown, even when images familiar 
to us are used to teach us what impression of His 
ways we may take up on this and that occasion. But 
why ? If, indeed, God and man are so far apart that 
there is no fit foundation for instructive analogies to 
reveal God ; if there can be no fit application of human 
terms to designate divine attributes, then the conclu- 
sion may hold. But the Scriptures assume and teach 
that there is a foundation. Man, they teach us, was 
made in God's image. Reversing the doctrine, some 
appear to hold that God, being in Himself absolutely 
indeterminate and indescribable for us, is in the Scrip- 
ture usefully shaped into man's image. That, how- 
ever, is not the scriptural assumption, and it ought 
not to be brought in to control the interpretation of 
the Scripture teaching. 

There is a sublime distance between God and man. 
Whatever conceptions of Him are carried into our 
minds, ought to stir in us not only the perception of 
an instructive likeness, but also the sense of a sublime 
contrast. Yet this does not obliterate our knowledge ; 
it only reminds us forcibly how much in this case re- 
mains unknown. The consideration that so much 
remains unknown ought to make us the more cautious 
in our use of what we do know, but it ought not to 
make us deny our knowledge. There is a boldness to 
turn our articles of attained knowledg^e into fountains 
of confident inference in all directions, which nothing 
but perfect knowledge will justify. That is to be put 
away from us. We must learn from Scripture what 
uses and applications of our articles of knowledge fall 
within the intention of the Revealer, and are justified 


by His method. But is limitation of this kind peculiar 
to theology ? It applies as forcibly to the sciences of 
observation, say to chemistry. There also our attained 
knowledge must be cautiously used, must not be too 
confidently reasoned on. For we cannot foresee nor 
prescribe how the unknown facts and laws may un- 
expectedly traverse what seem to us good deductions 
from the known. It is maintained that the clear 
intention of Scripture (noway impeached by its analo- 
gical elements and methods) was to convey to us abid- 
ing convictions, such as take shape in doctrine. It is 
admitted, at the same time, that the question. How 
much doctrine ? may competently be raised. For we 
may err not only by ascribing to the authority of the 
Scripture what is false doctrine, — rejected by the true 
sense of Scripture, — but also by fathering on Scrip- 
ture simply too much doctrine, more and more precise 
than it ever meant to teach. This can be settled only 
by the discussion of concrete cases — of actual doctrines. 
So far, we have been dealing with those who argue 
from the nature of the sources of theology in the 
Scriptures, representing them as not fitted to yield 
doctrinal conclusions. But I said, also, that an 
argument to the same effect is deduced from the 
nature and limits of the human faculties. How 
different, it is said, are the conditions of the divine 
thought, if we may ascribe conditions to it, from those 
of human thought ! In what a modified manner must 
truth exist, when cast into the forms that make it re- 
ceivable by man ! Comparing the truth in the divine 
mind with the truth in the human one, must we not 
conceive it to be, in its second form, so purely relative 


to our low and limited faculties, that while it makes 
known in a manner what we may take to be true for 
certain purposes, it does not give any knowledge 
which we are entitled to treat as holding good in the 
general — as having the permanent and self-subsisting 
qualities of truth ? 

I might reply that there are diverse kinds of know- 
ledge in the world ; and of it all, how much is there 
that is not relative ? It is relative to our faculties, 
our means of perceiving and discussing truth. How- 
ever far we mean to go from home, we must always 
start from our own door. Yet we do not take this as 
precluding us from having real knowledge of its kind, 
which can be applied and used in that character. 
Neither need it hinder us here. But I do not care, I 
confess, to speculate on the nature of knowledge. A 
reply more concrete and conclusive is at hand. 

For certainly the Scriptures, as was shown in last 
Lecture, deal with us in the way of furnishing principles 
which we are expected to apply, and revealing rela- 
tions which we are expected to appreciate. They do 
warn us that we easily get beyond the bounds within 
which we enjoy safety and see the light. But they 
do not suggest that our faculties are such that, in 
dealing with Scripture teaching, we must be haunted 
by a perpetual doubt, and remain enveloped in a 
world of misty images through which we cannot 
pierce. They speak to us as if it were very possible 
for us to have an understanding, in the exercise of 
which we can correctly take the sense of what they 
deliver, and have it as part of the furniture of our 
own mind. They speak to us as if there were no 


reason why we should not be as well assured that we 
apprehend the great Teacher's meaning, as a child 
may be that he correctly takes his father's, when his 
words are earnestly and carefully adapted to his years 
and progress. For here, again, the historical struc- 
ture of the Scripture fits it to afford us a guarantee 
that we do correctly catch its drift, and that when we 
read it we are dealing with teaching which is indeed 
' in part ' only, yet is firm, definite, and reliable. 

But there is a more precise assurance still, that 
limited and imperfect as our knowledge may be, it is 
meant to be a true communion with the divine mind 
in knowledge, as well as in love and work. The ob- 
jection contrasts the truth in the divine mind with the 
apprehension of it in the human one. But there are 
steps between the extremes, that assure us of a true 
community of thought between the Highest and the 
lowest ; and that a true transmission of the divine 
thought is possible and is effected, great as the differ- 
ences must be. For when the Scripture has duly 
printed its lesson on any of our minds, then our faith 
is but one note in a great harmony. It is truth in the 
divine mind, and truth in the mind of the God-man, and 
truth in the mind of His inspired servants, and truth in 
the mind of the believer whom the Spirit teaches — the 
truth that dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. 

We find in Scripture great assertions, pattern truths 
as it were, which furnish us with decisive specimens 
of the kind of truth which it meant to teach. They 
are such as these : That the Word was made flesh ; 
that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins ; that the 
Holy Spirit Is given to those who ask. Laid hold of 


by these, and giving effect to them, we find that ques- 
tions arise about other matters of the same kind, 
about which the Scripture seems to speak. Thus 
the doctrinal horizons extend. How much does the 
Scripture mean to say ? What precisely does it 
warrant us to believe ? A closer scrutiny may show 
that the Scripture, duly used, yields no such quantity 
and detail of precise and sharp-cut dogma as some 
have imagined. But whether that be so or not, the 
real question is, and always must be, not whether 
we shall have doctrine, but how much doctrine. 
What length does the Scripture itself warrant us in 
going, in our questions and our conclusions ? Ques- 
tions of extreme fineness will arise, about which there 
is the greatest possible reason for cautious and circum- 
spect consideration. But we shall find no help from 
sweeping principles, intended to expel or to disguise 
doctrine as such. The questions must be reached by 
industriously bringing all legitimate considerations to 
bear on each particular case. 

An acute and forcible writer,^ desiring to moderate 
the confidence which men place in their doctrinal 
conclusions, has remarked that the Scripture admoni- 
tions which propose to us the example of children, 
have at least as immediate a bearing on our know- 
ledge as on any other element in our life. We know 
as children, and are to bear ourselves accordingly. 
But how do children know ? He replies that the 
knowledge of children is relative. They learn how 
persons and things are related to themselves ; but the 
other relations in which those persons and things are 

^ Whately, Peculiarities of Christian Religion, p. 267 fol. 


placed, or the nature of them In themselves, they 
apprehend very imperfectly or not at all. A child 
knows what his father is to him ; but what he is as he 
stands at the helm of a state, or at the head of an 
army, he has no means of judging, or even imagining. 
Moreover, the knowledge of a child is very limited. 
Their ignorance is far greater than they themselves 
can estimate. And if they proceed upon their know- 
ledge as if it were complete, they must fall into the 
most flagrant errors. On the whole, as he says, the 
child's knowledge is generally sufficient for practical 
purposes, enough to guide them in the usual and 
necessary details of their own life ; but it is manifestly 
insufficient for any purpose of theorizing — of ground- 
ing inferences or forming systems. 

An application of the lesson hence derivable to our 
knowledge of the ways of God, is, as I think, very 
just. We are very ignorant, and are very prone to 
over-estimate the amount of our knowledge. And 
yet this consideration will not relieve us from the duty 
of duly considering what we do know, and of making 
use of it as knowledge, in all its proper applications 
as such. For, in the first place, even a child's know- 
ledge Is knowledge. It has, as such, all the qualities 
that fit It to be made use of like any other knowledge. 
But what a child wants, is the habit of wielding and 
applying knowledge, with a due regard to Its limits, 
and to the conditions under which it exists. In the 
second place, while our knowledge, compared with 
what it might be, and compared with what we hope it 
will be, does deserve Indeed to be compared with the 
knowledge of children, — for, like them, we know In 


part, — there is another respect in which a certain 
manhood is to be ascribed to it. There was a time 
when the Church was in a kind of servitude, and 
knew not what her Lord did. But in this dispensa- 
tion the Lord tells us plainly of the Father, and our 
calling is to take up the portion of those that are of 
full age : ' Ye were children, but now the fulness of 
the time is come.' It would be quite another thing to 
say that we always manifest this manhood as a quality 
attained ; but the attainment is our present calling, 
and manhood must take up responsibilities with which 
childhood had no call to meddle. And just as a 
child, growing up under guiding rules and instinctive 
impulses, is trained to think, and to measure the 
worth of its thinking, until, ripening by degrees, he 
steps out into manhood, to apply as principles in his 
own possession what had heretofore been principles 
embodied in the conditions of his trainino-, so the 
Church also is called to a certain manhood of the 
understanding, which must combine a certain courage 
with a certain caution, a confidence to assert with a 
wariness to scrutinize. 

But, indeed still more to the point, I ask, thirdly. 
What is the true character of manhood as compared 
with childhood in this point of knowledge .^ It is not 
that the man's knowledge is perfect ; for no man is 
omniscient, and in this world, at any rate, know- 
ledge at its best is compassed by narrow bounds. It 
is not that the man's knowledge is absolute ; for in 
a very great degree it is most manifestly relative, — 
a discernment of what things are to him, though he 
knows them not in themselves. But the charac- 


teristic of worthy and well-trained manhood is to 
estimate, as the child cannot do, how much he knows, 
and to give effect both to the reality of his knowledge 
and to the recognised limits of it. Thought and 
experience have taught him the boundaries of his own 
resources, at least approximately ; and his exercised 
senses discern how his ignorance limits his knowledge 
without extinguishing it. 

If then I have asserted, in one important sense, 
a manhood for the New Testament Church, which it 
ought to be our effort to attain and manifest, and if 
I ascribe to it, as a just attainment, a confidence to 
assert and to deny, I am all the more called upon to 
acknowledofe the limits which ouo^ht to control our 
efforts, whether in forming doctrinal positions, or in 
systematizing these into ordered wholes of truth. 

Here I revert to what was said of the constant risk, 
and the frequent exemplification of excess and over- 
confidence, in handling doctrine. 

I have already said that I do not believe in the 
possibility of applying any general principle or canon 
to measure the extent to which the believing mind 
may validly proceed in laying down doctrinal con- 
clusions. Generally, of course, the rule is, that one 
must ofo no further than he has warrant from the 
Scriptures. The mere recognition of this principle 
does not exclude excess, because the common case 
is, that men professing to rely on Scripture testimony, 
and having some show of it to produce, manipulate 
it in an unreasonable way, and base conclusions on 
it in a manner foreign to its genius and its divine 
intention. This being the nature of the case, — no 


general principle being produceable, and the matter 
depending very much on the application of good 
sense, combined with a humble Christian temper, and 
a general sympathy with the scope of the Scriptures, — 
it remains only to see whether any help can be 
derived from considering the causes that tend to 
produce excess in this department. 

In order to avoid being led too far a-field, I will 
exclude from view whatever belongs to the merely 
exegetical misuse of Scripture, and will confine myself 
in fact to one point, viz. the use made of inference 
in reaching theological conclusions. No one will 
deny, probably, that theologizing may be overdone in 
the line of undue confidence in inferential processes; 
that the schoolmen, for instance, in addition to any 
sins committed by false reasoning, or by assumption 
of false premises, erred by mere prodigality of dis- 
tinction and inference. On the other hand, inference 
has been maintained to be wholly a false method : 
either by those who wished to be purely Biblical 
Christians ; or by those who wished to nullify Chris- 
tian theology, by fixing on it the imputation of an in- 
herent vice ; or by those who thought that, without 
denying the right of inference to themselves, they 
could exclude their opponents from the benefit of it. 
By a very large and able body of men in all churches, 
— rather, one might say, by the general consent of the 
churches, exhibited in their practice, as well as vindi- 
cated by their systematic writers, — the use of infer- 
ence, and its validity as a method, has been maintained, 
not without qualification, but within certain bounds. 

There are, indeed, inferences so obvious and direct, 



that they are rather cases or examples of a principle, 
than conclusions drawn from it or built upon it. If, 
for instance, it is assumed to be established as 
revealed truth that our race is fallen and sinful, then 
to assert that this or that individual, born in the 
ordinary course of things, is fallen and sinful, is not 
so much an inference, as a statement of part of that 
which was affirmed before. The denial of such an 
inference is the direct contradictory of the doctrine 
supposed to be admitted. To inferences of this kind 
no one objects. If a Romanist, admitting the doc- 
trine, seems to contradict the inference, ^.^i'., in the case 
of the Virgin, he holds himself bound to meet the 
difficulty with a proper distiiigico, and to show, partly 
that even in her case the inference is admitted, partly 
that exceptional causes operated to prevent the 
inference becoming applicable to her in the common 
form and measure. But when it is asserted that 
animal sacrifices were originally of divine institution, 
the assertion is based on inferences more remote and 
indirect. It is collected (whether validly or not, is 
not the present question) from considerations con- 
nected with God's dealings with Cain and Abel ; from 
what is elsewhere revealed as to the conditions of 
acceptable worship ; from the use made of sacrifices 
in the subsequent divine economies, and the like. 
In other cases, inferential argument comes in to 
fortify conclusions which rest also on what are, or 
are claimed to be, direct testimonies of Scripture. 

First of all, it is clear that inference or argument 
cannot be excluded from the process by which doctrine 
is established ; for doctrine, as we have seen, arises in 


virtue of the active exercise of mind upon Scripture. 
But no active exercise of mind on any subject can pro- 
ceed without Involving inference more or less express. 
The sense of passages of Scripture cannot be com- 
pared, the result cannot be summed up, false views 
cannot be confuted, nor their opposition to Scripture 
established, without processes of inference ; many of 
which, indeed, are so easy and implicit that one is 
hardly conscious of them ; but all of which, the more 
implicit as well as the more express, are referable to 
the same rational principle. Moreover, if doctrinal 
beliefs are in any sense ours, if we take possession of 
them by an internal act of perception and conviction, 
if they are beliefs which hold us, and so far illuminate 
us, then surely a possibility of some valid inference Is 
involved in the nature of the case. Every truth is 
exclusive and Inclusive. Every perception of truth, 
every vital possession of It, implies some perception 
of what it excludes and includes. Every such per- 
ception, then, is a perception of the virtue that Is in 
it, when connected with some other truth, to evolve 
consequences more or less. To deny the possibility 
of valid Inference, seems equivalent to denying the 
internal and Intelligent possession of truth. Nor does 
any one who is in earnest with his convictions refuse 
himself the use of inference, however guarded and 
restrained, In explaining to himself what it is he holds 
by the consequences it entails, by the results emerging 
from the combination of its separate truths, by the 
alternatives which it excludes, and the propositions 
which It virtually and inferentially denies. 

On the other side, however, there are considerations 


which are strong to enforce the sense of dangers close 
at hand in this region, and the obligation of confining 
processes of inference within very narrow bounds. 
Nor, indeed, was more demanded by the Reformed 
theology than ' consequenticB proxinics, necessaries, evi- 
dentes! But everything depends upon the exposition 
given to such words in practice. 

The practical limits are dictated by such considera- 
tions as the following : — First, the measure of truth 
revealed depends on the ends which the Revealer had 
in- view. The knowledge conferred on us, sufficient 
for its own end, is in no sense complete knowledge, 
and for any end but that intended is insufficient know- 
ledge. The moment our reasoning goes beyond the 
intended scope designed for us by the Teacher, and 
indicated by the general drift of Scripture, it stumbles 
into all the dano^ers of io^norance. For who can tell 
how the knowledge of something which is not revealed, 
would modify the process and the conclusion of the 
reasoning ? Secondly, we reason by means of terms 
in which our doctrinal statements are expressed. Our 
confidence is, that those terms, as used by us, sub- 
stantially express and interpret Scripture thoughts. 
They do so substantially, let us assume ; but still not 
with perfect adequacy or exactness. In particular, as 
they are ours, defined and used by us, they are apt to 
combine with the Scripture sense which they are de- 
signed to carry, some tinge of meaning and association 
due to ourselves only — an unconscious or undesigned 
contribution from our fallible side of thiuQ^s. So lone 
as we are looking at the doctrine, in connection with 
the various Scripture utterances the sense of which we 


explain and fix by means of it, this element, even if 
present, may exert no great influence, and do no great 
harm. We are marking how the Scripture teaching 
combines into a result which may be well expressed in 
such and such doctrinal terms. But when we turn 
round and begin to Reason from our doctrinal position, 
the risk becomes greater. The inference may be 
drawing its strength from that excess or defect in our 
thought, or our term, wherein it fails, and betrays to a 
higfher mind its weak and fallible orio-in. There is 
not a more plausible argument, looking at it by itself, 
than that which infers from the single personality of 
the Saviour the false conclusion of His single will 
and operation.^ Here we have plentiful materials for 
guarding against the misleading inference. But a 
false conclusion may be as plausibly reached, where 
the means for correcting it are not so obvious and 

These considerations might suffice to show that 
reasoned conclusions in theology are not to be relied 
upon, unless we have reason to feel assured that they 
are not only w^ithin the premises, but well within 
them ; lying fair in the main drift of the' truth they are 
deduced from, considered as a portion of the Revela- 
tion by w^hich God deals with us ; and arising directly 
as demanded in an honest recognition of its plain 
meaning, not made out by precarious chains of in- 
ference. But the same lesson is dictated by experi- 
ence in other fields. While experience affords ample 
and growing evidence of the value of reasoning pro- 
cesses duly used, it does, beyond all question, modify 

1 Note E. 


very seriously the confidence to be placed In mere 
inference with respect to the constitution of nature, 
unless those inferences are confirmed by some counter- 
proof, such as that afforded by observation. The pro- 
gress of science teems with illustrations of plausible 
inference refuted by experiment ; and it is reasonable 
to admit the lesson in estimating the reliance to be 
placed on our faculties In theology. The method of 
theology in dealing with Revelation is not, as I think, 
to be identified wholly with the method of science as 
dealing with nature. But Inferences from doctrines, 
which have been gathered and settled by the exercise 
of our minds upon Scripture materials, are analogous 
to inferences from positions established by scientific 
observation, so far as to justify a lesson. Now, in 
science, it has turned out that inferences from know- 
ledge attained, intended to amplify and extend that 
knowledge, are unreliable by themselves, and require 
to be tested, and established by proof of another kind. 
This experience, which has taught modesty and circum- 
spection to genuine men of science, ought to teach the 
same lessons to theologians also. 

It Is putting the same thing in another way, to say 
that, while theological reasoning Is demonstrative in 
form, the strict necessity of demonstrative proof is 
often unattainable, owing to the nature of the matter, 
and owinof to the weakness of our faculties and the 
limits of our knowledge. Therefore the argument 
which sets forth the inference ought, properly speaking, 
to be expressed in probable terms only in one pre- 
miss or both : e.g., because A Is B, and B is probably 
C, therefore A is C, i.e. probably. Now, according 


to the experience of science, the probabiHty in such 
arguments is not to be reckoned as a very high 
probabiHty, until some other kind of proof has inter- 
vened. The manifold depth of God's works and ways 
is so great, as very often to throw out our probable 
judgments in the sphere of nature. It is quite as likely, 
at least, that it should prove so in regard to those 
things, some aspects of which and some truths about 
which are disclosed by revelation.^ And to all these 
considerations are to be added those which are 
suggested by the consciousness of our fallen state, the 
imperfection in the working of all our faculties in rela- 
tion to spiritual truth, which is due to sin. 

Two remarks may be added, however, for the pur- 
pose of suggesting that a too indiscriminate condemna- 
tion might pass on this ground. 

1. A tolerably free, if only a reverent, use of in- 
ference and speculation seems to be legitimate, when 
it is directed, not to ground certainties for faith, or 
to form new doctrines, but to illustrate the drift of a 
theology, and the tendencies in which it may discern 
its own genius, or to suggest the mysterious possibili- 
ties which surround the boundaries of what we know, 
or to awaken the sense of wonder and the disposition 
to inquire. For such purposes one might speculate 
and infer without any very rigid attention to the 
cautions suggested, if only we remember what it is 
we are doing, and come back the more emphatically 
to those Christian certainties, as thoughts of another 
quality and of a higher warrant. 

2. It is to be remembered that a great part of the 

1 Note F. 


inferential argument in point of fact employed by 
theologians, is not for the purpose of setting up theo- 
logical conclusions by that sole process, but for the 
purpose of throwing light on the sense in which testi- 
monies, or classes of testimonies, from Scripture are to 
be taken. If the sense Is disputed, then the likeli- 
hoods arising from the impression produced on the 
mind by collateral and connected truths are brought 
into play. These, supposed to be already established, 
appear to infer or favour a given conclusion on the 
point disputed ; and this is advanced as fitted to throw 
light on the sense in which the Scripture teaching was 
meant to be taken in regard to it. This is In Itself 
so legitimate, that every diligent student of the Bible 
must have brought the principle Into play In the course 
of his studies. The dangfer at hand Is that of allowlnof 
inferences from the general connection of doctrine, 
which seem to us well grounded, to press and force the 
text of Scripture. Just as In science a fact crops up 
which seems irreconcilable with well-established scien- 
tific doctrines, yet must be accepted, and by and by 
will be co-ordinated on some wider and deeper con- 
struction of the principle ; so also our duty may be to 
defer to a perplexing text in Its plain meaning, even If 
It seems at present not well reconcilable, in that sense, 
with views grounded on other portions of Revelation. 
That may be our duty. But our practice may be to 
explain it away ; and so we shut up the pathway to a 
fuller understanding of the mind of God. 

In connection with the topics just touched upon, we 
find ourselves dealing, manifestly enough, with aspects 
of a larger question, viz. What should be said, in rela- 

Lect. IV.] SUMMARY. 169 

tion to our subject, of the value and use of scientific 
theology ? The substance of the answer to this ques- 
tion is virtually supplied, it is believed, in what has 
been already said. More particular explanations on 
the point will be offered elsewhere.^ Let me close 
this Lecture by summing up what has been said. 

Attention was drawn to arguments that make 
against the worth of doctrines as a result of human 
thought exercised upon the Scriptures. Those argu- 
ments, it is maintained, still leave this as the question, 
viz. whether the Scriptures, speaking to us of divine 
things, convey to us any real knowledge. It does 
not matter though the knowledge should not be so 
much, or not so definite, as has sometimes been sup- 
posed. If it be really knowledge, it can be made 
sure of in that character ; and leaving uncertain what- 
ever is uncertain, we may measure and declare what 
it is that we know. All arguments of this kind, 
unless they go the full length of denying the divine 
origin of the Scriptures, wholly fail to justify a slight- 
ing treatment of doctrine, as if it were a department 
of uncertain value, or too certainly worthless. What- 
ever truth lies at the basis of these arguments, is 
rather fitted to impose on us an added obligation 
to go into the examination of doctrine with the 
most close and resolute scrutiny. Doctrine is in- 
evitable, if the Bible is to be earnestly dealt with ; 
and whether fairly faced or looked at askance, it 
cannot be suppressed : it will form in the minds, 
and it will influence the thoughts, of all Christian 

1 Note G. 


But there are considerations which may well dis- 
pose us to go about the task with special earnestness 
of feeling, and special tension of the mind. There 
are the possibilities of error that have led to the 
various controversies — of which it is not so much 
my business to speak here. But there are the possi- 
bilities of a false method. There is the possibility 
of too lightly and confidently reasoning out our con- 
clusions. There is the possibility of not marking care- 
fully enough, intelligently enough, lovingly enough, 
how Scripture deals with us about truth, how it seems 
to expect us to deal with it. There is the possibility 
of not giving due weight, in particular cases, to the 
cautions which the nature of divine truth and the 
structure of Scripture impose on us in our formulating 
of doctrine. There is the possibility of our not mak- 
inof a due estimate of our igrnorance. There is the 
possibility of our not keeping doctrine, as we hold 
it, in a due relation to the teaching of the Scripture 
itself. So, in proportion to the reality and greatness 
of the interest involved, there is need of close scrutiny 
of what we hold for doctrine. 

Doctrine, according to the account of it which has 
been given, represents the obedience of my thoughts 
to the collective Scriptures. I apprehend that the 
Scriptures guide me to think so and so. But the 
form in which I express this conclusion, the doctrinal 
utterance on any point, may begin to dwell idly in 
my mind, as a sort of self-hung sign, whose autho- 
rity is in itself; or it may become a substitute for 
the Scriptures, superseding the further earnest contact 
of my mind with the living Scripture utterance, so 


far as that point is concerned ; or it may come into 
the Scriptures with me, as I turn to study them, to 
domineer over the utterance of the one trustworthy 
teacher. What shall I do with it then ? Shall I 
fling it away, that I may be as if it had not been ? 
That would be to fling away the past, and whatever 
in and from the past I have been learning. Not so ; 
let me keep it, subject to correction, addition, improve- 
ment of any kind, as it may be found to need. But 
let me keep it in its place. Its place when it first 
arose was, that it was the result in me of the complex 
teaching of the Scripture. Let it never be anything 
but what (if at all just) it was at first — a form of 
obedience. If it be really such, like every other 
obedience, it will be an aid to further and more 
glorious and more fruitful obedience. Wherein it 
has erred, let it be brought to more full obedience. 
But let it sit with me, at the feet of the great oracle, 
evermore learning obedience — my doctrine evermore 
my actual obedience. 

At some period of our lives we become acquainted 
with the full Church doctrine about the Trinity, and 
with a summary of the argument by which it may 
be sustained. Feeling how necessary such a doctrine 
is in the system of an evangelical faith, we are noway 
disposed to quarrel with any part of it ; rather we 
delight in the symmetry of the statement, and in the 
stimulus the whole argument imparts to the intellec- 
tual faculties. We feel, perhaps, as if we had a great 
furniture of clear peremptory knowledge, and we 
confidently wield the terms and clauses that so aptly 
and definitely set it forth. But a time comes, when 


partly through study of the Scriptures, partly through 
study of the controversies in which those creeds 
arose, we begin, as it were, to feel the clauses and the 
definitions arising between the Scripture teaching in 
its various elements on the one hand, and the human 
mind with its questions and alternatives and per- 
plexities on the other — arising amid difficulties, amid 
hesitations at the alternatives, amid ponderings of 
w^ords where it seemed so hard to find words. We 
feel how the use of ovaia, and the vTroo-raaL'i, and the 
7repfxo)p7]at<;, and the like, in every due use of them, 
are determined not by the pride of knowledge, but 
by the humbly-felt necessity of holding ourselves up 
against this and that tendency that would lead us 
far away from the just scope of Scripture ; we feel 
how this and that question as to the teaching of 
Scripture, which either must arise, or may arise, called 
forth its answer ; and the human form of doctrine 
takes a lower place, because the divine Three are 
felt to be nearer in the Scriptures than they were 
before : it takes a lower place, it ceases to be so 
absolutely identified with the truth, as it lives and 
moves in the Scripture, but it becomes clearly more 
real. With more feeling of feebleness and ignorance, 
with more faltering lips, and yet with an enhanced 
sense of the reality of that mystery of which our 
words come short, we confess Jesus Christ, our 
Saviour, our elder Brother, to be God of God, Light 
of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, 
of the substance of the Father. 

In the scrutiny which is so necessary, this also is to 
be remembered. The just use of doctrine requires a 

Lect. IV.] OUR IGNORANCE. 173 

constant recourse to the Scriptures, in order that the 
terms we use may be vitaHzed. In the previous 
Lectures there was occasion to show how the Scrip- 
ture interprets its meaning, not to one faculty in the 
man, but to all his faculties, appealing to everything 
in him, and revealing a world to which every aspect 
of his being is related. But doctrinal terms are apt 
to become for us mere names, related, according to 
certain formulas, to other names. Then they become 
counters which we reckon with, as if they were 
thoroughly in our own power. It is in the Scriptures, 
when they are used so that doctrine does not control 
them, but is controlled by them, that we find the terms 
filling again with their great meaning. Then we 
become sensible of our inability to grasp that meaning 
wholly, or follow it to the end, and so we become 
sensible of our dependence on the Scripture for 
guiding our thoughts and words. 

But the P'reat limitinor consideration — most neces- 

o o 

sary, and perhaps most difficult ^ — that should keep 
us within bounds, both in forminsf and in usino- doc- 
trine, should be a due rerard to, and something- like 
a just estimate of, our own ignorance. This is easily 
said, but it is a hard thing to achieve. Ignorance, 
just because it is ignorance, cannot be measured, and 
can hardly be estimated. And then dangers beset 
us on either side. The consciousness that in many 
things we are ignorant, must not be allowed to breed 
perpetual doubt, to suggest endless possible alterna- 
tives incapable of being verified, to paralyze the mind 
or to bewilder it. For we stand in the light, though the 
darkness be all around — the darkness is past, and the 


true light now shineth. Resting on what we perceive 
to be the scope of divine teaching, what it means to 
convey to us, and to possess us with, there ought to be 
a resoluteness to affirm, to give effect and weight to 
truth, so that it shall exclude what it ought to exclude, 
and not be bereaved of the consequences which are 
plainly due to it. And yet, in dealing with things 
unseen, how readily may men err, by relying on con- 
clusions which draw all their plausibility from this, 
that the part which has not been revealed is left out 
of the calculation ! How readily, also, by forgetting 
that things of which we have a knowledge may be 
incomprehensible in their principles ! They may be 
such as can be duly known only if we look up to them 
as great incalculables, to which no measuring line of 
ours can set bounds. 

This, after all, is the question : How much the 
Scripture — all things considered, due regard had to 
its structure, its apparent aims, its peculiar method — 
really supplies us with the means of knowing on each 
topic ? No mere general presumptions will shake or 
sweep away the fabric of the general belief of Chris- 
tians. But if there are sifting times before us, the 
effect will probably be, to compel us, with more 
stringency, with more discriminating regard to all the 
considerations bearing on each point, to determine 
how much we can really say we know, how far we 
can say Scripture designed to guide our thoughts to 
this result, to this alternative, to this resting-place. 
For God has many means by which to constrain His 
children to search the Scriptures. 



OUGHT we to recognise development of doc- 
trine as a legitimate function of the Church of 
Christ ? and if in any sense it is to be so recognised, 
then in what sense ? This was pointed out in the 
opening Lecture as a question lying before us, and it 
must now be more carefully examined. Development 
there certainly was under the Old Testament, the 
light shining more and more as the rising of the Sun 
of righteousness drew nearer. But this was provided 
for in those days by a progressive Revelation, which 
guaranteed what it gave. Development also may 
certainly be traced in the writings of the New Testa- 
ment, brief as the period was during which they were 
given forth ; but here, too, the inspiring Spirit, who 
guided the human element while He supplied the 
divine one, is to be confessed ; and development be- 
comes merely a new illustration of the way in which 
human conditions and processes can be made vehicles 
for the conveyance of the divine message.'^ But ought 
we to admit that, under the New Testament economy, 
and after the removal of inspired teachers, doctrines 
are unfolded and elaborated as the ages pass, — doc- 
trines which were not unfolded at the first, and which 

1 Note A. 

176 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

yet deserve a place in the system of the Church's 
faith ? There need be no difficulty in admitting it 
on the part of those to whom the Scriptures are not 
completely authoritative, nor on the part of those who 
hold that they were intended to be supplemented by 
Revelation reaching- us throucrh other channels, and 
to be interpreted by an ever-present and infallible 
Judge. But by those who accept the Scriptures as 
the sole, complete, and adequate rule of faith, diffi- 
culty has been felt. For if Revelation was completed, 
once for all, when the canonical writings were given 
forth ; and if the record of Revelation is sufficient to 
make the man of God perfect ; and if it be clear, so 
that the sense in necessary things can be discerned by 
prayerful readers, where can the room be, not to say 
the need, for development ? What more of Christian 
truth can men have, than the apostles delivered by 
word and writ to the early Christians ? Or, if more 
be asserted, does not the assertion imply, first, that 
the Scriptures are by themselves insufficient ; and 
second, that valid additions from other quarters 
(whatever these may be) have been made to the 
teaching which they contain ? 

Development has been powerfully asserted (as was 
noticed before) both by Rationalists and by some 
Romanists. Rationalists commonly regard and repre- 
sent Christian doctrine as one branch of the general 
progress of the human mind. The Scriptures are, 
with them, not properly a rule of faith, much less a 
complete rule, but are rather the record of certain 
movements of the human mind, due to natural causes, 
or, as some of them would admit, due partly to causes 

Lect. v.] DR NEWMAN'S THEORY. 177 

which are in some sense supernatural Those move- 
ments, with Scripture as the record which prolongs 
and perpetuates their influence, have communicated an 
extraordinary impulse to the religious thought and 
feeling of men, and have impressed on it a definite 
bent. Hence come forms of religious consciousness 
highly interesting and important, which, however, were 
destined to be elaborated in the furnace of history, in 
the reflections and discussions of many minds and 
many ages. They were to combine with all the ele- 
ments of human thought, and with all the lessons of 
human experience ; and all along the process they were 
to be freely acted on by human reason, and by human 
unreason too. This process has often gone on under 
conditions which hampered and impeded it, but the 
process itself was inevitable ; and through whatever 
difficulties, it did and does work itself out. Develop- 
ment, therefore, was natural and valid. It could not 
be dispensed with, and it could not be arrested. 

A companion theory has been brought out by some 
of the defenders of Rome. They have asserted, as 
necessary and valid, a development very like that of the 
Rationalists, in so far as the human forces are concerned 
which urge on the process ; but they represent it as 
superintended by the infallible Church, which sifts the 
results, and guarantees them (those which are authentic) 
to the faith of Catholic Christians. The most brilliant 
and ingenious expounder of this theory has unques- 
tionably been Dr. Newman. His singular combina- 
tion of speculation and faith, with equal degrees of 
courage in both, and his peculiar style — or flavour, as 
one may say — of learning, which goes through anti- 


178 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

quity, attracting like a magnet what It finds congenial, 
and passing all the rest as irrelevant matters, — these 
gifts and peculiarities perfectly fitted him for the task. 
The theory of development, not advanced by him 
alone, but by him more elaborately unfolded, stands 
unrebuked, as the more adventurous form of the 
Romish doctrine regarding the office of the Church, 
as the keeper of traditions and as the judge of con- 

On the other hand, development as thus explained 
was not the old Romish doctrine of tradition, and it is 
regarded with dislike and suspicion by many influential 
persons in the Church of Rome. Neither was it the 
original Anglican or High Church doctrine. Indeed, 
that party, both in its ancient and in its recent or 
Tractarian form, proceeded on views totally incon- 
sistent with any such theory. They relied on an 
alleged consent of the Fathers, as the explicit warrant 
for all they taught, and a sufficient ground of sentence 
against any later doctrines. Newman has told us how 
the break-down of this via 7nedia led him to embrace 
Romanism and the development theory both at once. 
What the High Church party, as a party, hold upon 
the subject now, I shall not undertake to say ; but 
several of their writers seem to proceed on the notion 
of development, without explaining the principle or 
the limits of the development which they admit. 

The old Protestant position in the polemic against 
Rome was not friendly to a theory of development. 
Not only was the original or primitive teaching of the 
Scriptures asserted as the proper test or standard ; but 
it appeared suitable to assume and assert a correspond- 

Lect. v.] old PROTESTANT POSITIONS. 179 

ing original faith in the Church, which had been 
corrupted by Antichrist, but to which the Reformation 
had brought the Church back.^ It was not intended 
by this, that the Church had at any time absorbed and 
exhausted the fulness of the Scriptures, so as to bring 
out all that is in them. The contrary was acknow- 
ledged. But yet the doctrinal platform (barring mere 
changes of forms of statement) was very commonly 
thought of as identical in pure times, and altered only 
by corruption. Hence some Protestant writers as 
well as Romish have laid it down, that a negative pre- 
scription runs against anything taught for Christian 
doctrine which was not taught in the early Church, 
seeing they had the Christian faith, and we can have 
no more. And every one knows how very freely they 
accepted, ex abtmdanti, the challenge to produce early 
authorities for all their teaching : not that early autho- 
rity was binding on the conscience, — for only Scrip- 
ture had that prerogative, — but because as a matter 
of fact, in a pure age of the Church, the pure doctrine 
must be presumed to have been extant. A somewhat 
different application of the same general mode of view 
was made by another party, the followers of Calixtus 
in Germany, and some of the Latitudinarians in Eng- 
land. They proposed to fix some period of time in 
the Church's history, say the first five centuries, during 
which all that the Church then believed must be 
supposed to have got into writing ; and it was to be 
assumed that only doctrines recognised as important 
before the end of that period could ever be entitled 
to rank as important at any subsequent date. The 

^^ Note B. 

i8o DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

object was not to exalt the authority of the Church, 
but to Hmit the amount of dogmatic material which 
should be allowed to enter into confessions and creeds. 
And the principle resorted to for that purpose was, 
that the early Church was In possession of all the 
material of that description which it ever could be 
legitimate to employ/ 

All these parties, indeed, or most of them, recognised 
— they could not but recognise — changes which had 
taken place from age to age in the colour and amount 
of the doctrinal deliverances pertaining to what them- 
selves esteemed to be orthodox Christianity. Some- 
times they made admissions upon this point which 
were hardly consistent with their own affirmations, in 
other places, of the explicit identity of the faith from 
first to last. But commonly they explained the matter 
by saying that the change was merely in the form or 
in the way of putting things ; or it might be the change 
implied in evolving the contents of propositions by 
logical inference. This remark applies, for instance, to 
most if not all of those who argued on the Protestant 
side against Dr. Newman thirty years ago. They 
generally treated the assertion of any substantial de- 
velopment as if it were treason to the faith. None 
among them could more worthily represent the rest 
than the lamented Archer Butler. He lays it down 
expressly, that the only development he grants (setting 
aside the development of error) is that which may 
have taken place by strict logical inference from 
Scripture propositions. Such development he grants 
to be valid and real, and the conclusions thus reached 

1 Note C. 

Lect. v.] concessions. i8i 

he accepts as binding our faith. But then he says this 
does not come to much, because happily in most cases 
those inferences themselves, when duly drawn, turn 
out to be propositions which have direct Scripture 
countenance more or less express, so that we are not 
reduced to the necessity of resting them on inference 
alone. They might have been developed, but are in 
fact supplied by a more direct delivery.^ 

Yet even those who were most rigid in excluding 
development have commonly been obliged to make 
concessions at some point in their argument. They 
have been obliged to admit that inevitable processes 
are at work in the Church, which often produce 
changes In the modes of statement and of explanation 
adopted ; and often those who begin with decrying all 
development, proceed in their argument as If they 
objected not so much to development Itself, as to 
the authority claimed for it. Abroad also. In Ger- 
many, theologians were well accustomed to represent 
the history of theology as a process of development ; 
and if this began with the Rationalists, ere long the 
believing theologians followed in the same line.^ In 
our own country, since the date of the publication of 
Newman's work, the tendency has much increased 
among men of different schools to admit and apply 
the idea of development ; though it Is often done 
with little regard to the grounds on which it should 
be placed, or to the consequences which may be 
involved in it. 

1 Note D. 

2 It is hardly necessary to give specimens ; one may refer to Doc- 
trine Histories generally. Dorner may be cited, Lehre vom Person 
Christi, i. 66, 68. 

i82 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

There can be no doubt, indeed, that considerations 
can be advanced, and are now-a-days more strongly 
felt, which powerfully attract the minds of students 
to the theory of development, whatever the difficulties 
may be which it has been thought to involve in 
relation to the sufficiency and clearness of Holy 
Scripture, and in relation to the unity and perpetuity 
of the faith. One of the most effective and ingenious 
parts of Newman's essay, is his illustration of the 
position, that the very constitution of the human 
mind, and of human society, seems to demand that 
room be made for some process of this kind, and that 
Christianity would hardly be well adapted to the con- 
dition of mankind, unless development made part of 
Its divinely ordered and divinely guided history. 
While this theoretic consideration operates a priori, 
facts supply an experiential argument to the same 
effect. The great rationalistic movement of last 
century and of the present has produced, amid many 
evil consequences, this good one, that an appeal to 
facts and an investigation of them have been carried 
on with more resolute disregard of consequences than 
at any previous period. The results of modern 
historical research certainly exhibit a succession and 
growth in the history of doctrine which corroborate 
the belief, that development of some kind or other, 
explained by one principle or other, must be acknow- 
ledged. These facts of history, or the most important 
of them, must have been apparent to learned men 
ever since the revival of letters. But whereas at one 
time the tendency was to explain them away so as 
to intercept the influence they were fitted to exert 

Lect. v.] development VINDICATED. 183 

upon men's conception of the general course of Chris- 
tian history, that has now ceased to be the case. 
Where learned men still stand out for the old read- 
ing of the history, as a certain number in the Church 
of Rome still do, it must be at the cost of some 
effort, and not without a sharp strain on the dogmatic 
prepossessions which dispose and persuade them thus 
to keep their ground. 

The object of this Lecture, then, is to assert and 
vindicate development of doctrine as a function of 
the Church of Christ, belonging to her duty, connected 
with a right use of her privileges, and indeed indis- 
pensable to her life. It is asserted as a source of 
change and advance, not sudden, impulsive, and fitful, 
but commonly slow, secular, and cumulative. It is 
asserted as consisting well with all that Protestants 
hold of the completeness, perfection, and clearness 
of the word of God, and therefore as free from im- 
plication with the principle of Rationalism on the 
one hand, and with the principle of Romanism upon 
the other — with both of which it has been represented 
as allied. It is asserted as necessitated a priori, by 
the nature of the case, and proved in fact a posteriori, 
from the evidence of history. However, within my 
limits, all that can be done is to explain what is meant. 
A great deal of proof and illustration must be passed 
by, and a good deal must be left to depend on the 
general coherence and credibility of the exposition 

Now, when a process of development is asserted, 
everything depends on how we fix the starting-point. 
The main difficulty that has arisen, in point of fact. 

i84 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

in conaection with the subject, is due to some con- 
fusion and oversight on this point. It is very com- 
monly taken for granted in a general way, that if 
there is such a thing as legitimate development, the 
starting-point must be the completed Revelation as 
delivered by apostolic men. As soon as this is 
assumed, all the difficulties are at once present in full 
force. How can the completed Revelation (whether 
recorded in Scripture alone, or partly preserved by 
tradition too) be a complete and adequate rule of 
faith, if it serves only as the point of departure of a 
development that was to fill all future history ? Or, 
if the completed Revelation be an adequate rule of 
faith, then the development must be conceived to be 
extremely extraneous to the faith, lying in matters 
which concern the restless curiosity of the human 
mind rather than the earnest docility of the disciple 
of Christ In this case, whatever falls into the 
development, ceases to concern the Christian as 
such. Or, lastly, the importance and worth of the 
developed doctrine may be conceived to be saved 
by such a theory as Newman's ; viz., that as the 
fundamental Revelation was divine and adequate 
for its purpose, so also the development is sifted 
and guided by the divine mind, which through the 
Church presides over the whole process. So the 
Protestant doctrine of the Rule of F"aith would have 
to be abandoned. 

But the truth is, that the development does not 
start from the completed Revelation ; that would be 
a lofty starting-point . indeed. It starts from the 
measure of understanding which the Church had of 

lect. v.] starting-point. ' i8s 

the Revelation at the time when apostolic guidance 
ended : it starts from the measure of attainment in 
knowledge of the meaning, scope, and connection of 
the truth ; from the thoughts, and especially the clear 
thoughts, which the Church then had of the truth set 
forth in apostolic teaching, and embodied with other 
elements in the Scriptures. There is a connection 
between these two — the completed Revelation, and 
the Church's attainment in knowledge by the means of 
it ; but there is a very great difference between them, 
which it is quite wonderful to see so little appreciated 
by some who write on these subjects. Do men really 
suppose that the early Church, as it passed out of the 
apostles' hands, had actually received into its mind 
the doctrinal fulness of the Scriptures ? The difference 
between the completed Revelation and the Church's 
apprehension of it, was as great as that between the 
brightness of the sun and the reflection of it in some 
imperfectly-polished surface, that gives it back again 
really, constantly, but with a diminished, imperfect, 
wavering lustre. 

Consider the case of an individual among ourselves, 
who has ordinary intelligence and culture, who has 
not enjoyed the advantage of religious training, who 
is awakened to a sense of the weight of divine things, 
and led to embrace the gospel on some simple report 
of its divine meaning. Such a person has, in the 
Bible which he now begins to study, the whole truth 
already given to him which man is required to re- 
ceive. He may be said to be, in a sense, in possession 
of it, as soon as he has attentively read over the 
Scriptures. But, in point of fact, it is only by degrees 

i86 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

that he appreciates the scope and meaning and range 
of appHcation of a great deal that he finds there ; and 
if he really makes progress, the sense of the vast di- 
mensions of his ignorance will gain ground continually 
within him. True indeed, if, as we have supposed, 
he has been led to catch some leading views which 
constitute the special message of the gospel, there 
may be a very rapid, almost an instantaneous clearing 
up to him of the general plan, and of his own position 
with relation to it. Yet room remains for a great 
deal of further attainment in distinct and compre- 
hensive knowledge. It is attainment which he ought 
to make ; to go forward in it belongs to his calling as 
a believer. 

But now, let us suppose our disciple, not placed in 
circumstances such as we ever experience or observe, 
but led to the serious and prayerful study of the 
Scriptures by himself, either in a desert island or in 
the midst of a hostile, anti-Christian society. In 
such circumstances, he has no guidance from the 
experience of others ; nor has he brought to him, 
through those who have been in Christ before him, 
the suggestions and helps arising from the Church's 
experiences of 1800 years. All his attainments have 
to be struck out between the Scriptures and his own 
mind. He has, in short, if I may use the illustration, 
to compose for himself his own catechism. Every 
one may see that, in such circumstances, his advance 
towards true, full, and well-proportioned knowledge 
of Scripture teaching will be gradual, and would be 
subject to various biassing influences arising from the 
state of things around him, and from the mistakes on 

lect. v.] state of early church. 187 

various points into which, In the twilight of partial 
knowledge, he might be apt to fall. 

No instance of the kind now adduced will perfectly 
Illustrate the case of the early Church starting on her 
history, when the light of apostolic grace and wisdom 
died away. The social character of the Church's ex- 
perience contrasts, of course, with that of any solitary 
believer. Christians are primarily dependent on their 
Lord, on His Spirit and His word. But as respects 
those acquisitions and attainments which may become 
common property, they are very largely dependent on 
one another ; and the Church is dependent on the 
state and progress of her members collectively, but 
especially of the more gifted and holy minds. Be- 
sides, so far as the last form of the Illustration Is con- 
cerned, the difference Is obvious between the case of 
a man who has never seen In another the living ex- 
emplification of Christian life, and of Christian thought 
exercised on Christian truth, and the early Church, 
through whose collective mind the influence was 
thrilling still of the most powerful Christian indi- 
vidualities, and of a burning teaching that was not 
only recorded in precious pages, but was echoing In 
the memories and prayers and homilies of the Chris- 
tians in all the older churches. So that our friend in 
the desert Island must rather be supposed to be one 
who has enjoyed for a time the society and training 
of some wise and advanced Christian, but has had it 
soon withdrawn again, and, with his elementary attain- 
ments and his Bible, Is left now to himself And it is 
also to be remembered, that some obstacles to the 
ready perception of the meaning of the inspired 

i88 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

teaching, which obstruct the progress of any modern 
student who has to make way by himself, did not 
operate in that manner in the early Church. For the 
language of Revelation was the contemporary dialect 
familiar to the greater number of her members ; and 
the circumstances which, to a large extent, determined 
the cast and tenor of apostolic communications, were 
the recent or the present circumstances of those same 
congregations. They were spared the labour of re- 
presenting to themselves strange and ancient condi- 
tions, as the modern inquirer must sometimes do. 
Still, with whatever deductions, the illustrations which 
have been adduced do suggest characteristic features 
of the condition of the early Church. Coming from 
the twilight of Judaism, and from the darkness of 
Paganism, surrounded and acted on by influences 
derived from both, the Church had to deal with the 
completed Revelation. In the earliest days of post- 
apostolic history, the Church had not yet gathered up 
everywhere all the writings which were stamped with 
their authority. On the other hand, she still had, 
especially in some of the congregations, the recollec- 
tion, fresh and powerful, of apostolic teaching verb- 
ally delivered. But if the early Christians had in this 
way, on the one hand less, on the other hand more, 
than the precise record as it stands in the writings 
of the New Testament, that makes little difference 
to the argument. Indeed, the argument is only 
strengthened if it be maintained that their sources of 
information were defective ; but by far the most 
reasonable view is, that at a very early date indeed 
the main writings of the New Testament were current 

lect. v.] attainments and defects. 189 

in the churches, although no pressing necessity might 
yet be felt that the boundaries of the canon should be 
precisely determined.^ On the other hand, as regards 
the real teaching of the apostles, reasons have already 
been offered for the position, that we ought to regard 
it as perfectly homogeneous in character with the 
written teaching to which we have access in the New 
Testament writings. Those writings, along with the 
Old Testament, are for us the completed record of 
Divine Revelation ; and what the early or the earliest 
Church had, was, as regards our present argument, 
practically the same thing — in no material respect 
distinguishable. She had in her hands, therefore, 
means of acquainting herself with divine truth, its 
nature and relations, substantially of the same kind 
with those which we still enjoy. And part of her 
calling was to understand and appropriate the fulness 
of this completed Revelation. 

What was the effect and result of this ? It was no 
doubt, first, this : that in the Church generally there 
was a thorough acquaintance with the history of the 
great facts of divine revelation — especially of those 
which concern our Lord Jesus Christ — the great acts 
of the Lord in which interposition was made for the 
salvation of sinners. There was also a very lively 
appreciation of the mercy of God set forth in these 
facts, and a strong impression, though certainly not a 
complete knowledge, of their bearing on our deliver- 
ance. Secondly, this included — it could not but include 
— a great deal that was in the strictest sense doctrinal : 
as, for instance, that the Lord Jesus was divine as well 

1 See Hofmann, Die heilige Schrift neiten Testaments^ V. p. 25 fol. 


as human ; that His death was for our sins, and the 
like. The fundamentals of Christian truth, disclosed 
in the great facts which embody them, were doubtless 
so received, that instant way was made for the appro- 
priation of gospel blessings, and for the enjoyment of 
fellowship with God. Thirdly, as this was connected 
with the inward grace of the Holy Spirit, so also it 
was sealed in the experience of Christian life. In the 
case of many, it was no doubt a most powerful and 
blessed experience ; and it implied a deep practical 
insight into the world of Christian walking, into the 
relations in which Christians stood to old and new — 
to world, and Church, and Christ, and God. In this 
state of things they felt, no doubt, assuredly, that the 
darkness was past, and that the light of life was shin- 
ing in their hearts. Yet, fourthly, there might remain, 
there must have remained, a great disparity between 
that which was delivered in the Scriptures, and that 
which the mind of the Church had as yet taken in and 

Now this disproportion or defect may be traced to 
different causes, and so might exist in different ways. 
First, it might exist as an elementary way of conceiv- 
ing things which ought to be looked upon as natural 
and blameless. The great world of truth opened in 
the gospel could not all at once be mastered as it is 
there delivered, but only attained to, as men grew to 
Christian stature, and as, aiding one another, they 
ripened the common attainments of the Church. 
Many a Christian has felt, in the course of his con- 
templations, as though the apostles, from the centre of 
a bright world of truth and life, were uttering a wealth 

lect. v.] elementary views. 191 

of meaning, the bearing of which he, standing on the 
outside, could only imperfectly apprehend. We find 
ourselves mentally and spiritually too feeble to grasp 
and wield and follow the range of the great principles 
which they put in play. And so it is easy to under- 
stand how the early believers, rejoicing in the wealth 
that had come to them, might still be far from that 
insight into the ways of God which the Scriptures are 
capable of communicating, and might fall short of 
much which was afterwards attained. For instance, 
that Christ is the Son of God was then, as now. 
Christian truth believed and lived on. It was not 
only accepted, but, in the main meaning of it, it was 
understood too. For who that had received the Holy 
Spirit's teaching, could fail to see and be impressed 
with the glory of that perfect Sonship ? And who 
could fail to own the preciousness of being called to 
the fellowship of Jesus Christ His Son ? Yet it might 
be a time, and not a short time, ere men did full justice 
to all the information educible from the Scriptures as 
to what this adorable Sonship does or does not imply, 
and as to the way in which it stands related to our 
Lord's pre-existent divine nature on the one hand, or 
to His human birth and history on the other.^ And 
yet this might be without any false or perverted views : 
without the denial, actual or virtual, of any truth after- 
wards to be attained ; without any assumption that 
that which they knew was all that was to be known. 
It is the case of men who have not proceeded beyond 
elementary conceptions ; especially, it is the case of a 
company of men, whose conscious agreement with one 

^ See page 212 infra, and Note I. 

192 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

another, whose common perception of the great objects 
of faith, has not proceeded beyond elementary con- 
ceptions, which are true and sound as far as they go. 
Now this is precisely one of the features which strikes 
one most readily in the very earliest Christian litera- 
ture. It is characterized by a strong and joyful hold 
of the Christian facts, and of the fundamental doctrines 
which these involve ; it is characterized also by a fine 
perception as to the way in which these bear on prac- 
tical life, as well as by an admirable enthusiasm for 
holiness. But there is a manifest feebleness and un- 
certainty in handling Christian principles, an inexpert- 
ness in this whole department, which offers the most 
striking contrast to the manner, so powerful and de- 
finite, in which the apostles bring to bear on any given 
point the fulness of Christian principles — the most 
lofty and recondite as readily as the most familiar. 

Here there was room for progress ; and progress 
grounded on this aspect of the Church's condition is 
a normal and legitimate progress. It belongs to the 
proper destiny of the Church, designed for her in 
virtue of the constitution of man, and of the character 
of the Revelation which God has been pleased to give. 

But besides what I have called an elementary style 
of conceiving and contemplating the faith which is 
natural, and therefore blameless, — to grow on which 
and from which is the Church's proper calling, — there 
were defects arisino- from causes which were less 
innocent. There could not fail to be, in the case of 
men fallen and sinful, and in the case of a Church 
composed of such men not yet perfected. This, then, 
is blameworthy defect ; and under this head may be 

Lect. v.] culpable defect in knowledge. 193 

ranked all the shortcoming in the understanding of the 
Scripture, and of the principles of truth revealed there, 
which deserves at our Lord's hand the rebuke, ' O 
fools, and slow of heart' (Luke xxiv. 25). For, first 
of all, an indocility cleaves to men, which revealed truth 
and the influence of grace do not perfectly remove. 
And secondly, a peculiar sluggishness embarrasses 
and obstructs the proper proficiency of Christians and 
of the Church. Men, even though they love the 
truth, are very apt to stand still in it; i.e., they are apt 
to proceed to those views and applications of it only 
which special mental conflict or providential discipline 
have prepared them to welcome. Its further issues 
remain not worked out. The mind slides over them, 
or past them, or recognises them in an unappreciatlve, 
unintelligent way ; and so we fail to see that which, if 
the eye were clear, would be seen to be written as 
with a sunbeam. Thirdly, men's minds were pre- 
possessed. There had come over to the Christians 
from the old world in which they lived before, a mass 
of thought and impression and prejudice. It filled 
the air, it clung to all the words men used, it was in 
a manner the mould and method of their thinking, it 
was part of themselves. In the reception of the faith 
of Christ this previous structure went down, breached 
in many of its strongest parts, and room was made for 
the new faith. Wherever it was evident to the Chris- 
tian mind that the old world of thought was contradic- 
tory of the new, the old might be freely sacrificed and 
banished. Wherever the instinct of the Christian 
heart or conscience suggested that the old was dan- 
gerously alien to the new, the same thing might take 


194 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

place. But the whole extent of contrast and contra- 
diction could not be discerned. A leaven of the old, an 
influence of it, still remained, — whether old Paganism 
or old Judaism, or old Philosophy, or old Art, or old 
social life, pitched as it had been to a non-Christian 
key. In so far, discernment was hindered, and the 
mind fortified against the just and full effect of 
Scripture lessons ; and so the other obstructing in- 
fluences were reinforced. Such things as these did 
not operate sporadically only. They were common 
and pervading conditions of the Church's life ; and 
so the result due to them was a more or less per- 
vading and characteristic defect in the Church's attain- 

It is true, indeed, that the mutual ministries which 
obtain in the Church tend to modify the effect due to 
causes such as those now specified. For one stirs up 
another ; and what one neglects, another, disciplined 
by other providences, marks, and communicates as 

^ In these remarks, I proceed on the principle that just perception of 
the doctrinal teaching of Scripture depends, for one of the factors, on 
spiritual enlightenment ; and therefore I take into consideration the 
degree of completeness in which that must be conceived to exist and 
operate. In assuming this principle, I am not at all insensible to the 
great place which cultivated intelligence has in the successful investiga- 
tion and explanation of Christian doctrine. Nor do I forget, or wish 
to conceal, that high intelligence, though unhappily separated from a 
spiritual mind and a good conscience, may signalize itself greatly in 
a certain kind of work in this department. Equally true it is, that 
truth presented in the Scripture, or proved and illustrated from the 
Scriptures, becomes a real object of knowledge to multitudes of people 
who are radically unbelieving. Not forgetting all this, I keep to the 
assertion that in the Church of God just perception of Christian doc- 
trine, which alone can secure just statement of it, depends, for one 
thing, on illuminating influences. This is a common principle of the 
Christian faith. Without any discussion of the grounds of it, I say 
merely that it is here in view. 

Lect. v.] real starting-point. 195 

common good. Still, backwardness and defect arising 
from these influences must be assumed. Nor is the 
working of them insignificant. 

It does not seem reasonable to go further, and to 
argue that influences which were biassing and mis- 
leading, might give rise to positively mistaken views, 
and to statements formally erroneous, on particular 
points of doctrine. Such influences wrought plenti- 
fully and mischievously in the subsequent history of 
Christian doctrine. But we are here fixing the start- 
ing-point. Even at the beginning, as every one 
knows, false views existed, and were propounded by 
individuals and sects. But that positively wrong and 
unscriptural views on some points, even subordinate, 
prevailed throughout the Church so as to characterize 
its general state, is an idea which no one would wish 
to entertain, and it would be impossible to prove it. 
Predispositions there were, no doubt, which were 
dangerous, because they would in due time become 
temptations, not to be overcome but by watchfulness 
and grace. 

In the light of these considerations, it Is easy to see 
that the starting-point of a process of development 
is not the apostolic teaching, but something decidedly 
lower than that, viz. the initial attainments of the 
Church under that teaching. This once admitted, it 
will also be understood that the development ought to 
be not so much from the Scriptures as a point of 
departure, but rather towards the Scripture fulness 
as the goal and landing-place. However, as yet we 
are not speaking of the process, but only of the start- 
ing - point. Reasons have been assigned for con- 

196 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

eluding that this initial stage of attainment ought not 
to be placed too high. It is possible also to place it 
too low. — to regard the early Church as living under 
the influence of views so vague and meagre, that it 
is difficult to understand how Christian life could be 
maintained,— and to represent the subsequent history 
as a scene of changes and additions in the doctrinal 
department so considerable, that evolution becomes 
revolution ; the doctrinal equipment of the Church 
from one stadium to another of its earlier history is 
virtually transformed. The school which followed 
Dr. Baur of Tubingen accepted both these conclu- 
sions, and both are contrary to the truth of history. 
The faith of the earliest Church was bright, definite, 
and glowing, conscious of a great wealth of peculiarly 
Christian knowledge. And the various stages of 
the Church's progress, whatever changes may have 
marked them, have been united in a regard to great 
doctrinal fundamentals of which the earliest period 
was already in possession, and which the latest simply 
inherits. Three elements or attributes of the mental 
state of the early Christians require distinct attention, 
if their position is not to be misunderstood, and if their 
attainments are not to be underrated. 

First, we may underrate the amount of doctrinal 
belief which must exist in any society of persons who 
are in possession of the Scriptures, or of teaching 
equivalent to that of the Scriptures, and who enjoy 
at the same time the promised grace of God. Such 
societies may be conceived existing in a great variety 
of circumstances, and ' predisposed in a great variety 
of ways. Yet the amount of doctrine which must 

Lect. v.] early christian belief. 197 

exist in the case supposed is very considerable, and 
the articles constituting it are most weighty. When 
I speak here of doctrines, I mean all convictions so 
clearly conceived, so much understood and agreed 
upon, so ready upon all occasions to be uttered and 
put in shape, that it is pedantry to discriminate them 
from doctrines, even though they might want some- 
thing as yet of the careful and exact minting which 
school treatment could give them. Certainly to the 
earliest Church we must ascribe no scanty furniture of 
such convictions. It may be difficult to draw the line 
precisely, difficult to prescribe the exact ' how much ' 
to which these scattered societies of early Christians 
attained. But let us only consider what they knew — 
could not but know — of the Father and the Son and 
the Holy Spirit, of the fall from a better state, of 
redemption, of judgment, and of the hope of glory. 
Can we doubt that they must be conceived as in 
possession of the kernel, at least the pith and essence, 
of all those great doctrines which are the framework 
of Christian thought, and which determine the cha- 
racter of Christian experience ? All we know of the 
earliest Christian literature, scanty as it is, agrees 
with this view of the case. The whole fundamentals, 
therefore, of Christian doctrine were already given, 
not merely in the Divine Revelation, but also in the 
believing mind of the Church. And they existed not 
merely in a virtual and implicit manner, but explicitly, 
present to the mind as luminous truths ; only they 
were conceived, probably, and expressed, in a very 
simple elementary manner. And many determina- 
tions which afterwards came to be regarded as essen- 

198 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

tial had not yet emerged, far less become matter of 
common consciousness. 

But, secondly, let us not suppose that the doctrine 
which had become clear to them, existed in the 
Christian mind in a bare and dry manner. Let us 
not underrate the just sense of resource, of plentiful 
wisdom in store, as it were, which those early Chris- 
tians doubtless had, and which we also should humbly 
cherish. Could they fail to feel that they had great 
abundance more of truth in their hands, of which they 
had not yet exactly searched out the bounds, nor 
could see to the bottom of it ? What questions 
might be coming they knew not. But that they had 
ample resource to answer any question it ever should 
be needful for them to answer, of that they were 
sure, for it was a point of Christian faith to be sure 
of it. Therefore their state of mind is never to 
be conceived as analogous to the negative condition 
of him who says, * So much I believe, and no more.' 
Round about the truth, which they could at once 
produce in explicit declarations, stretched wide and 
glorious all that wealth of inspired teaching, of which 
for the present it might seem better to take the good 
hi direct impression, than to put it into any articles. 
The articles would come as they were needed. 
Meanwhile the unbounded trust in Christ, and the 
unbounded sense of obligation to Him, gave, so to 
say, a potential expansion to all they did distinctly 
hold, which ought never to be forgotten. 

Thirdly, it is to be remembered that the Church, 
virtually and instinctively, had and held truths which 
had not been explicitly developed. The Church had 

lect. v.] truths held implicitly. 199 

such truths, virtually, at a time when she could not 
produce them, had never been distinctly conscious of 
them, nay, perhaps, would not have recognised them 
on a first statement had they been suddenly proposed. 
A liberal estimate of what should be set down under 
this head, is necessary in order to form correct im- 
pressions of the early Church. 

How the Church could be in virtual possession of 
truth which had never yet come into view, may be 
illustrated by an experience which has befallen us all. 
On a subject that interested you, — one perhaps con- 
nected with the habits and experience of your life, — 
you have known what it is to have more in your 
mind, in some way, than you can express, nay, more 
than by strenuous effort you can produce to your own 
thought. You have found, for instance, that a view 
was offered to you, or a course of proceeding recom- 
mended, and you felt distinctly moved to reject it, to 
repel it ; yet you could not tell why. You could not 
explain it to another ; you could not make it clear to 
yourself — you had no doctrine about it ; but you had 
a position. Studying and meditating, you get hold 
perhaps of the considerations by which you extricate 
into light this sentiment of yours, due probably to 
tendencies and impressions of many different kinds 
which predisposed you to a certain verdict. Your 
thought, your reasons, become apparent to you ; you 
can try what they are worth, whether they are pre- 
judices or more ; and you can trace out the tracks 
of sentiment that concurred to predispose you, and 
see what they point to. Yet you had a position 
before the question arose, before the point was pro- 

200 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

posed which set the process agoing. You had a 
position, which was the result of your whole life, and 
of the general connection of your convictions or your 
practical principles. You had a position ; but you 
had not, at that time, a doctrine. After the process 
has been gone through, however, there may come 
fresh light, not merely on the one point in hand, but 
on the connected points. You may acquire a new 
intellectual possession of the whole array of reasons 
bearing on that department of truth or life. 

So the believing mind, having Christianity in its 
great fundamentals rooted in it, and plied with 
Biblical teaching, acquires a position which virtually 
anticipates questions not yet raised or thought of. 
And so the mind of the Christian Church, at a given 
stage, in addition to the doctrines which it embraces 
and propounds, may virtually be already regulated 
in a conformity with doctrines not yet distinctly con- 
templated or descried.^ Neither man nor Church is 
hereby guaranteed against some measure 'of error at 
the very next step ; for there is no certain consistency 
in the working of men's minds, even at their best 
state in this world, nor can there be as long as there 
are contending elements in their state. The actual 
development may be marred or misled by various 
forces. It is enough, for the present, to have spoken 
of what that state of things includes from which the 
process starts. 

The possibility of such an Initial state of things, 
and of progress from It, depends upon two conditions 
which have already been referred to ; I mean the 

1 Note E. 

Lect. v.] structure of revelation. 20I 

structure of Revelation, and the structure of the 
Church itself. 

As regards the structure and method of Revelation, 
it was shown that in its completed state it is emphati- 
cally, or embodies, a disclosure of principles which are 
to be understood and used in the manner appropriate 
to principles. Yet it was pointed out that these are 
not set forth merely in bare abstract form ; nor was 
it fit that they should be. These principles prove to 
be such as have respect to living persons — God, 
Christ, man, the Holy Spirit ; and to historical forces 
and events — sin, grace, salvation, judgment, and the 
like. They are exhibited to us arising into view out 
of historical facts and transactions, from which they 
shine upon us ; they are exhibited also as they pass 
over into history and life, making plain their meaning 
in their results, — for instance, in the lives of those who 
receive them, in their faith, love, service, victories 
over sin and temptation, etc. Hence we perceive 
what the work to be done was. Those truths shine 
from the blessed history of redemption, so simply that 
they guide a child. Yet a complete acquaintance, or 
say even a tolerably full acquaintance, with any de- 
partment of the great whole, involves a tolerably full 
perception of the manner in which the principles are 
combined in the history, and also of the manner in 
which they come into experience in Christian hearts 
and lives. Such are some of the materials on which 
the Church must work, in order to arrive at steady 
and clear perception of the whole truth revealed. 

If this account of the method of Scripture be at all 
a true one, then, along with what it teaches at once, 

202 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

there is plainly combined something which it teaches 
only by degrees. Questions arise, and lines of investi- 
gation open, in connection with which a deep perspec- 
tive is revealed in the Scripture teaching. As men 
begin to consider particular points, it turns out that, 
in order to success, many acquisitions are necessary : 
as, for example, a discriminating knowledge of the 
truth taught on other points, and a ripe familiarity 
with the various relations of the transactions which 
build up the great history of redemption, and insight 
into the bearing which the gospel, in its various 
aspects, was meant to have on sin, and need, and 
duty — on the human heart and the human conscience. 
Here is a wide field. Yet it may have to be traversed, 
in order that one may be prepared to understand and 
combine aright the various utterances of the Scripture, 
so as to ascribe to them their just scope and weight. 
To take in a sufficiently comprehensive view of all 
the elements ; to gauge and test their relation to one 
another ; to settle, also, the relations in which they 
stand to those modes of human thought by which we 
strive to explain them to ourselves or to one another : 
this is a great work. And it is a gradual work, in 
which no man, and no Church, and not the whole 
Church, is perfect all at once. 

But the structure of the Church, as well as the 
structure of Revelation, was appealed to. This also 
prepares the way for the process of which we speak. 
The Church is composed of individuals. According 
to the Reformation doctrine of the Church, the re- 
vealed truth is intended for each of them ; to find its 
verification in the conscience of each ; and to set in 

Lect. v.] structure of the church. 203 

motion in the case of each, by God's blessing, the 
workings of his own spiritual life. The members do 
not receive their spiritual life from one another, nor 
impart it to one another. Each draws directly from 
the living Head, on whom each is primarily depen- 
dent. Yet, as the Church is the appointed means 
for carrying the message to all whom it concerns, 
so also, in the Church, the members have a certain 
dependence on one another, and on the whole society, 
because they are appointed to receive important in- 
fluences in that way. They have fellowship in truth 
and love, and they minister to one another's edifica- 
tion. More particularly, as regards our subject, the 
members of the Church have a common interest in 
the truth, and they have also a mutual ministry to 
discharge in communicating to one another what they 
have received. The organization of the Church pro- 
vides means, especially, whereby the attainments of 
the more gifted, or more proficient, may be communi- 
cated to all. Hence doctrinal enlightenment does or 
may become common property. It does or may. We 
state it no higher ; for what is called the Church, or 
portions of It, may prove largely non-recipient of the 
truth, or may oppose it. Hence doctrinal darkness 
and perversity may be diffused in the room of truth. 
All that can be said Is, that by the means mentioned 
doctrinal enlightenment does or may, in a measure, 
and according to the capacities of men, become 
common property. Well, now, the Church is not 
only a fellowship of many in one age, but It continues 
in a succession of generations. One generation cannot 
hand over Its spiritual life to another. Yet, just as 

204 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

men may extend helps and advantages to other Chris- 
tians living at the same time, so one generation may 
hand over the like advantage to the next. Handing 
over the Scriptures, they hand over also what they 
have attained in the way of interpreting its meaning 
to the consciousness of their own time, and discerning 
how it bears on the questions of their own time. 
Hence, if things went always in a normal or ideal 
order, the Church might be conceived to make pro- 
gress by a regular succession of slow but onward 
steps. In point of fact, it is not thus. Many forces 
that are, or seem to us, irregular and irrational, sway 
the Church to and fro. All one can say is, that pro- 
gress is rendered possible, and incumbent. 

Before proceeding further, I will notice one or two 
grounds of difficulty or prejudice which may occur 
to some minds. To assert a relatively defective 
measure of attainment as the initial stage of the 
Church's history, from which progress was to be 
made, may seem to convey a very unwelcome im- 
pression of the Church in the earliest age. It seems 
to say that the early Church was inferior to ourselves, 
and that we may look down on her from our own 
superior height. But this is not a seemly attitude, 
and the view which justifies it may be thought suffi- 
ciently condemned by that very circumstance. 

To such a difficulty I have only to reply, that if the 
Church of our day does not know more of the full and 
just scope of the teaching of the Scripture than the 
Church of the sub-apostolic times, it has very great 
cause to be ashamed. In that point, the attainments 
of those early Christians were presumably inferior, as 

Lect. v.] 'WE ALL HAVE KNOWLEDGE.' 205 

it may be hoped the attainments of our successors will 
in due time surpass ours. But superior advantage, 
in the form of additions in one kind of knowledge 
(even if it be very valuable), is not the sole nor the 
chief measure of men in the Church of God. And if 
in those early ages such knowledge as they had dwelt 
in a more intense and inward manner upon the great 
central verities — if it was more thoroughly mixed with 
faith — if God by His grace enabled them to attain a 
more adequate impression of the priceless worth of 
His own love in Christ — if He graced them with 
greater simplicity of spirit to count all loss for Christ 
— if He blessed their knowledge to beget in them a 
practical acquaintance with God, so that they had, 
more than we have, the instinctive perception of what 
it became them to expect from God, and how it 
became them to walk with God, and what it was 
reasonable to do and suffer for His name — if the 
recent glory of our Lord's incarnate life, and the hope 
of His return, so filled their hearts as to divide them 
greatly from the world, and bind them to one another, 
and lift and consecrate their common lives, — then, 
with a knowledge in some respects narrower, theirs 
was a deeper and diviner wisdom. Then, if so, we 
had better take our knowledge (which, whether it 
be more or less, could easily be surpassed) and sit 
down with it at their feet. For if any man love God, 
the same is known of Him. Whether in all these 
respects they so manifestly excelled us, I do not take 
upon me to assert. It becomes us to think that they 
may well have done so.^ 

1 Note F. 

2o6 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

It may seem, however, a difficult thing to under- 
stand how the questions could fail to arise and to 
demand an answer, which are in fact answered by the 
doctrinal deliverances of the churches as they now 
exist. No formal deliverances were given, it may be 
said, because happily they were not wanted. But the 
questions and the answers must have been current : 
the intelligent interest which inquires was there ; and 
the teaching which replies, all the authentic teaching 
we yet have, was also there. Now, no doubt, all those 
questions seem to us, now that they have been raised, 
and have intensely occupied the Christian mind, to be 
natural and inevitable for the disciples of every age. 
Yet nothing is more certain, than that questions rise 
successively and gradually ; and, in the Church, the 
questions which explicate the subordinate detail of 
Christian doctrine did so arise. It may be difficult for 
us to imagine a state of lively and fruitful converse 
with Scripture teaching, and yet a state in which those 
questions were not yet pressing on the mind. But how- 
ever difficult to conceive. It Is yet a fact, realized at the 
present time In the case of large sections of the existing 
members of all churches. It Is the case of those who, 
being young, or being in humble life, or being converts 
in mission fields, have not had transmitted to them so 
fully the effect which the modern mind inherits from 
the conflicts and the meditations of eighteen centuries. 
There is no reason to suppose that apostolic teaching 
Instantly disclosed to the early believers all that it 
might on due examination disclose to some ; nor that 
it instantly revealed the range of questions and alter- 

lect. v.] unity of the faith. 207 

natives that were to open from it for the exercise of 
thoughtful minds. 

Once more, the representation offered may give 
offence, on the ground that it does wrong to the great 
thought of the Unity of the Faith. A virtual and 
implicit unity of faith is common to the believers of all 
ages and all dispensations. But it may be said, under 
the Christian dispensation, an explicit unity of faith 
ought to be — Is believed to be — the common possession 
of all, in every place and in every time, — the same 
truths, the same apprehensions of God's mercy in 
Christ, the acceptance by the early believer and the 
latest of the same clear and perfect teaching. For 
with the Christian dispensation came the clear shining 
of the light ; and surely it is the same light, in which 
all rejoice together. Such may be the difficulty. It 
has been met already (p. 197). It was urged that 
the great fundamentals at least were In the possession 
of the early Church, unambiguous and explicit. Now 
in these the faith Is determined, and by these its unity 
is secured.^ The objects which faith should regard, 
the relations to them which faith ought to accept and 
verify, are fixed from the first ; but distinct and dis- 
criminating knowledge of the objects and of the rela- 
tions may be deepened and increased. 

So far, then. It has been shown that development of 
doctrine was possible, and was incumbent. Now such 
development might be conceived to take place simply 
in virtue of the existence of successive generations of 
Christians exercising their minds upon the faith ;. some 
of whom were charged officially with the duty of 

1 Note G. 


teachinof. That mlo^ht be conceived to ensure succes- 
sive acquisitions. And this other consideration might 
be added, that as generations passed, God's providence, 
carrying the Church Into different positions, would 
supply new points of view, from which clues to fresh 
paths of Christian thought might be seen and seized. 
However, impulses of a more definite kind may be 
specified as having much to do with the actual move- 
ment of the Church. For the Church Is very apt to 
be sluesflsh and contented, unless difficulties and trials 
wake her to her work. 

One source of Impulse Is to be found In the collision 
of the faith with the mass of impression and opinion 
pre-existing in the world. 

There was in the world, t'.e. In the minds of men, 
a great mass of material, which was heterogeneous 
enough, no doubt, and yet It had a kind of common 
character, and was referable for the most part to a 
few fundamental positions.^ The materials might be 
various ; but the result to which they all tended, and 
the habit of thought and feeling which they all sug- 
gested, turned out in the end to be pretty uniform. 
There was, for instance. Philosophy in its various 
forms, comprehending a good deal of Natural Theology 
and a o^reat deal of Ethics, — setting- forth a crreat 
mass of thinking concerning God, man, will, duty, and 
destiny. On all these subjects a wealth of conception 
existed In the world. It was inherited from the past; 
it clung to the very words which men employed, many 
of which the Scripture also uses ; it was embodied in 
the mental habits and tendencies of men as then exist- 

1 Note H. 

Lect. v.] old and new in collision. 209 

ing. Now It was far from being obvious at once, how 
far Cliristianity must modify and transform all this, or 
must eject it. How far might it leave these actual 
possessions and predispositions of human minds un- 
altered ? How far must it require them to be modified 
or to be renounced ? This was a great question, 
singularly extensive and difficult. It began at once to 
be dealt with in every Christian mind in a practical 
way, as soon as faith took place ; and the principle 
applied was of course this, that the views which 
Christianity brought with it must rule the thoughts as 
well as the life. This went on in a practical way. 
An adjustment was taking place unconsciously, or half 
consciously, between the floating conceptions and 
mental methods of the age on the one hand, and the 
new thoughts of Christianity upon the other. When 
it was distinctly seen that a Christian doctrine came 
into collision with an old idea or an old view, the latter 
might be distinctly and cheerfully renounced. With 
faithful Christians it would be so. But there were a 
thousand cases in the middle ground between Chris- 
tianity on the one hand, and conscience or natural 
religion on the other, in which there might be no 
instant clear collision between the two tendencies, and 
yet a real incompatibility. In the minds of many 
men in such cases, a rough adjustment might silently 
take place, in which one force or the other was un- 
consciously abridged or modified. Now in some 
minds, a desire to look into these questions distinctly, 
and clear them up, was sure to arise ; and so the issue 
was raised as to the relations between Christianity and 
the philosophy of the day. Those who undertook this 


task had to settle their conceptions of the nature and 
bearing of Christian principles, in order to bring them 
into a comparison with the principles of the schools. 
When they did so, they might earn the character of 
good servants of the Church, whose labours aided the 
common cause ; or they might be regarded as mis- 
stating the problem, and as betraying the Christian 
interests which they meant to guard. Their exposi- 
tion might be accepted, or on specific grounds it might 
be challenged. Either way, the enterprise advanced 
and matured the thinking of the Church. The chief 
instance in this kind is the Christian school of Alexan- 
dria. It supplied the first great deliberate, yet only 
provisional, adjustment. 

But under this head of collision with the impres- 
sions and opinions of the age, another class of pheno- 
mena may be ranked. There were current in the 
minds of men various fancies as to the likelihoods 
according to which one might explain the origin of 
this manifold world, its inner nature, its use and 
destiny. These likelihoods were suggested to men 
by what they saw or guessed of the world's existing 
state, and of the elements which combine and contend 
within it. What ruled in this department was not 
theory, so much as feeling or impression. The fancies 
adopted received their animus from that which men 
chose to contemplate as a desirable or a probable 
destiny for the world, or for human beings. Had 
these fancies simply stood on their own ground, as 
non-Christian, they would have faded and died out. 
But they rushed in, as it were, to borrow the name 
of Christianity itself, and to turn to their own account 

Lect. v.] heresies. 211 

Christian materials. Ideas concerning God and Christ, 
and heaven and things to come, which Christianity 
supphed, were eagerly laid hold of and woven into 
the strangest speculations ; and these speculations 
were given forth as authentic versions of the Christian 
faith. Such were the wilder — what we may call the 
more Pagan — heresies. In dealing with them, the 
Church had to test and expose their teaching ; and in 
doing so, she became more fully aware of the proper 
genius and bearing of her own. 

Another of the sources of influence to which I have 
referred as stimulating and guiding the development 
of doctrine, was the collision of the Church's faith 
with the heresies as they successively arose. Here I 
refer especially to those heresies which may be classed 
as more Christian, or less unchristian, than the Gnostic 
aberrations of which I have just spoken. 

Commonly, as has often been remarked, these 
heresies arose in some such way as this : Some 
Christian idea, or some one aspect of a Christian 
principle, was laid hold of in an intense, exclusive 
manner. It began to be urged wilfully and im- 
patiently. It was developed extravagantly, and con- 
clusions were urged as needful in order to its being 
duly recognised and held, which were perverse 
and erroneous, and traversed some other principle of 
Scripture teaching ; and finally, the process was 
crowned by the explicit denial of the part of Scrip- 
ture teaching which thus interfered with the ten- 
dencies that were at work. The Church, meanwhile, 
could win a complete and real victory over such a 
heresy only in one way : namely, by doing justice to 

212 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

whatever truth the diverging tendency represented, 
but at the same time evincing its consistency with 
the other truths which that tendency had neglected or 
opposed. Such a process could not possibly fail to 
educate the Church's mind, and force her on to a more 
full, exact, and fruitful acquaintance with the whole 
relations of truth as unfolded in the Scriptures. And 
it developed doctrine, leading it out from less com- 
plete to more complete positions. 

When the Arian heresy came to be discussed, one 
effect was practically to decide that certain modes of 
speaking and of helping men's conceptions in con- 
templating the Son of God, as at once one with the 
Father, and yet another from the Father, must be 
given up. Those expressions had been very current, 
had been used without offence, and with no important 
bad effects. They proceeded on the faith of our 
Lord's true Godhead ; and yet they suggested the 
idea of the emergence of the Second Person as an 
event, and also the idea of a relation on His part to 
time and to the creatures, which entangled the think- 
ing, or at least the language, of those who employed 
them, in inconsistencies. Arius, by the manner in which 
he brought forward his heresy, became the means of 
forcino- into clearer view the alternatives which had to 
be decided. It came to this, that the Church must 
speak more clearly and connectedly. The risk of 
confusion between Creator and creature, by ascribing 
to the divine nature properties or vicissitudes that 
are applicable only to creatures, must be more care- 
fully avoided. This had become necessary, and Arius 
made it so. There was really no tenable, no con- 

Lect. v.] ARIANISM. 213 

sistent line to take against Arius, now that he had 
broached his subversive error, but this : viz., (i) to 
acknowledge his fundamental position, that the true 
God is divided by a fundamental contrast from- all 
His creatures, even the most glorious ; then (2) to 
assert, against him, that the Son is divine, is God, 
is identified with that one God, is fundamentally con- 
trasted with all creatures ; and (3) to deny, still as 
against Arius, that we are to imagine, or impute to 
any creature, an attributive Godhead, — a Godhead 
founded on created and imitative perfections in a 
created nature, such as in words Arius was willing to 
ascribe to Christ ; to deny that the name and glory 
of God are conceded to any who does not possess 
as his nature the divine nature, with all its essential 
attributes, all its incommunicable perfections. The 
line must henceforth be run clear and trenchant 
between what is proper to the Divine Being, — and 
this must be ascribed to the Son, — and what is proper 
to created natures, — and this must be denied of Him 
in His pre-existent state. This was all true. And 
the more clear perception of it, and of its grounds in 
Scripture, along with a more intelligent impression of 
the insufficiency and dubiousness of some ancient 
modes of speaking on these subjects, was part of the 
gain which the Church derived from the Arian heresy.^ 
A variety of influences came into operation as the 
history of the Church advanced, further complicated 
by the change that was taking place in the conception 
of the rule of faith, and of the manner and spirit in 
which it should be applied. One influence, it may be 

1 Note I. 

214 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

observed, was not in early days particularly powerful, 
which was afterwards to work with very great force. 
I mean the systematic, or that which is connected 
with the desire and effort to connect the articles of 
the faith together in a reasoned and adjusted system. 
Doubtless, in the discussions already referred to, men 
did not, and could not, lose sight of the argumentative 
force to be derived, on the one side, from the har- 
monies of a consistent scheme ; or the weakness, on 
the other, which a successful charge of internal incon- 
sistency entailed on any cause. Still, it can hardly be 
said that the systematic impulse told directly to any 
great extent, at an early period, in advancing the de- 
velopment of the Church's teaching. As time went 
on, however, — as the positions acquired and defended 
as points of ecclesiastical orthodoxy increased in num- 
ber, — the idea of formal system lay nearer at hand ; 
and the suggestion tended to become more attractive, 
that points of doctrine fitted to complete the scheme, 
though supported by slender and indirect evidence of 
Scripture, might be corroborated by systematic con- 
siderations. However, until the opening of the 
scholastic period, no very striking results, manifestly 
due to this cause, made their appearance. Once in 
operation, it wrought powerfully in connection with 
very different schools of theology, as long as the syste- 
matic tendency continued to prevail.^ For a century 
past, however, a strong tendency has been manifested 
to suspect whatever savours of systematic consistency 
in theology. This tendency is certainly in unabated 
strength at the present moment, at least in so far as 

1 Note J. 

Lect. v.] succession OF TOPICS. 215 

regards systematic representation of 7^evealed doctrines. 
In the department of Natural Theology, system would 
probably be more freely tolerated. 

So far of the designed room for development, and 
of the manner in which the Church, cross-questioned 
by the rise of controversies, and stimulated by suc- 
cessive points of view which her providential circum- 
stances supplied, was urged into the work. Those 
questions which have successively quickened the ex- 
amination of Scripture, those topics which have risen 
specially into view to exercise the minds of Christians, 
could not, it would appear, at least in general, be antici- 
pated. Each rises in its time, prepared for by those 
which precede, and specifically presented to view in 
virtue of many causes, some of which probably work 
too deep to be detected or discerned. So, also, when 
a question once has been fairly raised, when a line of 
doctrine has strongly engaged the attention of the 
Church, and an issue has been presented, then, unless 
it be intrinsically irrelevant to the Scripture teaching, 
unless it be a mere extraneous matter, it cannot be let 
go again, and treated as though it had not been. Its 
importance may be differently estimated at different 
periods, the answer to be given in connection with it 
may be differently conceived, the ecclesiastical effect 
to be given to it may be differently assigned ; but it 
cannot be wholly dismissed. It has come into view, 
and it remains in view. The elements of Scripture 
which have revealed some part of their significance in 
connection with the questions put, and the suggestions 
made, continue vocal on the point to the succeeding 
generations. The process gone through is become 

2i6 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

part of that past which underlies us all. It is part of 
what leads up to and explains the manifold present in 
which we have our actual beinsf. 

So, in some great landscape, the general forms, 
especially the greater ones, stand out incapable of 
being misinterpreted by any true eye. But on all 
sides there are portions where the detail is nearly lost 
in a general outline or a general tint. Through a haze 
in the air, or a dulness in the eye, or an intent pre- 
occupation to make out precisely the line of march in 
one direction, only a general impression, or not much 
more, is made, and we are content with that. But 
some new interest — a question, a hope, a danger — 
attracts our attention strongly in a new direction. As 
the eye or the telescope fixes on the new points, a 
meaning begins to attach to the lines, to the tints, to 
the distinctions that seemed so faint. Presently the 
sunlight, breaking through, streams full upon the object 
of our gaze. Lights and shadows come out, the detail 
becomes animated and intelligible, the objects which 
were merged in one dim distance fall into many 
planes of nearer and farther relation, the scene is 
developed, so that far more than before is known and 
can be said. Afterwards the eye may turn away, its 
special interest being demanded elsewhere, and the 
light may cease to be so specially bright on that one 
spot. But a knowledge remains. Henceforth, even 
to our casual glance, those tints and lines have a 
meaning and significance. Not unless the same 
earnest gaze is fixed again, and the same light falls, 
will the same fulness and charm of knowledge 
present itself to the sense. But something is gained 

Lect. v.] guiding rule. 217 

which the mind does not, nay, which it cannot again 

But while influences like those to which reference 
has been made urged on the process of the Church's 
mind, they had no right to become her guides. They 
might awaken the beheving mind to demands made 
upon it; but what resources should be drawn upon 
in order to meet that demand ? According to the 
principles on which we proceed, the true resource was 
the teaching of Scripture, prayerfully studied with all 
possible diligence. Now this, in truth, was resorted 
to as the great and decisive rule and source of know- 
ledge throughout the early controversies. There 
were, indeed, peculiarities in the method in which this 
was sometimes done. These may be taken advantage 
of, by those who choose, in order to obscure the 
evidence of the Church's reliance on the Scripture as 
the proper rule. But the fact is too broad and palp- 
able to be got rid of ^ 

But it does not follow that the rule should always 
be applied with perfect success. Nor does it follow 
that the main body of professed believers, or of their 
teachers, should always keep true to right views of 
the rule itself, what it was, and how it should be 
used. Hence, while room existed for genuine de- 
velopments, as we have seen, that was by no means 
the only possibility ,* and while genuine development 
has taken place, that has been by no means the only 
process disclosed by history. False developments — 
away from the truth — were possible, and have been 

^ In order to disembarrass the text of matter which might impede the 
reader, the necessary explanations are thrown into Note K. 

2i8 . DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

actual, as well as those which might imply a fuller 
understanding and application of it. The existence 
of heresies is the existence of such developments, 
some of them exercising wide influence, over long 
periods of time. But it is not only of sects and 
fractions of the Church that this possibility is to be 
affirmed. The general body of believers may come 
under the influence of misleading views on points 
of great importance. And though we believe that 
God always has had, and will have, a Church to 
serve Him, which He will preserve from falling into 
fatal error on fundamental points, yet, however strictly 
the conception of its membership may be limited 
(in order to uphold the belief of its purity), there 
is no motive to maintain, and in fact there is no 
ground to believe, that the members of it are so set 
above the general bias of their time, and so fenced 
from its influences, that they never participate, yes, 
largely participate, in erroneous doctrines which are 
plausible and prevalent. The Church generally, and 
true branches of it, are liable to be betrayed into 
false developments, and have been so betrayed. 

The preparation for this lay in causes, the operation 
of which, doubtless, God might have averted, if it 
had pleased Him to exempt the company of His 
people, or some among them, from the possibility of 
mistake, that is, to render them infallible. As He 
has not seen meet to do so, those causes have been 
allowed to operate, but never so overwhelmingly as 
to extinguish the knowledge and profession of the 
central truths of His gospel. The preparation for 
false developments lay in the mixed and imperfect 

Lect. v.] sources of false development. 219 

condition of the Church on earth, and of all its mem- 
bers, even the best of them, in consequence of which 
their thoughts are prone to go astray, and erroneous 
tendencies are prone to be generated. It lay also 
in the rudimentary condition of the Church's initial 
attainments, already referred to. For though that 
might have existed innocently, yet in practice, as 
time went on, it involved a culpable inattention or 
inadvertence to the significance of Scripture teaching 
in some of its aspects and bearings. Important de- 
partments of truth were left unexamined ; and so, as 
to these, men floated insecure, ready to drift with the 
influences that happened to prevail. 

It was chiefly in connection with topics that were 
not discussed, at least not thoroughly and resolutely 
discussed, that tendencies to false development 
gathered head. Generally, they were topics about 
which a tone of sentiment could form and grow that 
professed to be Christian, that connected itself with 
Christian feeling and aspiration, and which could thus 
claim to be regarded as genuine and admirable. The 
tendencies, intellectual or aesthetic, embodied them- 
selves, so to say, in parasitical, imitative methods of 
christianizing, simulating the characters of Christian 
devoutness, and promising to open a way for the 
fullest exercise of Christian virtues. Meanwhile the 
concentration of thought and debate upon other 
questions diverted attention, and secured time for 
the consolidation of sentiment and habit. So the 
growing tone came to be recognised as the established 
one — the true Church tone, which ought not to be 
questioned. If any persons did arise to offer criticism 

220 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

or opposition, they might readily take wrong positions 
in doing so, and raise wrong issues ; in which case 
it was easy to disgrace them and put them down. 
Such, in general, seems to be the history of that steady 
drift in one direction on the subject of Church and 
sacraments, which constitutes one of the most remark- 
able developments in Church history, and one of 
the most baleful. Members of churches which are 
separated from Rome may differ as to the exact type 
of doctrine to be preferred on this subject ; but none 
of them can consistently deny that the course of de- 
velopment here referred to crossed the right line at 
some point of its course, and ran into unscriptural 
excess. And most of them will be of opinion that 
it began to assume this character pretty early. In 
this instance we see how * false development,' imply- 
ing defective intelligence of Scripture teaching, and 
perverse apprehension of it, and exerting in turn a 
darkening and perverting influence, could spread 
through large bodies of Christians, and through the 
Church at large, ultimately going near to destroy the 
Christian life, with the working of which It had 
seemed at one time to be so closely connected. It 
is right to add, that it never could have gone to such 
mischievous excess but for the alteration of the pre- 
vailing view as to the rule of faith — which was, 
indeed, itself a part of the same development — In 
virtue of which the Church superseded the Bible. 
It has been pointed out^ in what a gradual way this 
alteration was prepared, and the later history of the 
Church shows to what it grew. 

^ Note K. 

Lect. v.] aberrations. 221 

The instance just cited is a conspicuous one. It 
must not be thought, however, that false develop- 
ments arise only under influences similar to those 
now described. Misleading influences are indefinitely 
various. They may act and gather strength in in- 
numerable ways. In whatever direction the circum- 
stances of their time brinor a strain on the minds of 
Christians, temptations arise, which may be overcome, 
but which may also manifest their prevalence by 
their results. Doctrinal divisions are the proofs of 
the existence of this infirmity. And it is very reason- 
able to think that all branches of the Church, without 
any exception, not only share the infirmity, but have 
manifested the effects of it in their dealings with 

The history of the Church in this department, then, 
has not proceeded according to any theoretical or 
ideal programme. It has included much that did 
not spring from her proper destiny of privilege ; not 
only sound development, but unsound and erroneous 
divergence. Melancholy aberrations led her at last 
into a wilderness of error, so as greatly to mar the 
fruit even of those sound attainments in doctrinal 
truth which were still retained. I say that those 
aberrations led the Church ; for, as I have already 
remarked, whatever we may hold of a remnant pre- 
served when general apostasy had fallen upon Chris- 
tendom, we cannot doubt that the prevailing condition 
of things involved them also in great darkness and 
bewilderment. Very remarkable divine discipline 
was needed in order to produce in men's minds an 
adequate sense of their own bewilderment. And 

222 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

very remarkable interpositions, providential and gra- 
cious, opened the way to regain much that had been 
lost, as well as to attain much that never had been 
so well understood before. 

For the Reformation was a great doctrinal develop- 
ment. It was not merely and only a clearing away of 
corruptions and superstitions, and a regress to some 
standard of early attainment. Nay, it was not only a 
regress to the Scriptures themselves ; it was also a 
progress in the Scriptures. It involved a positive hold 
on truth doctrinally, especially on some truths, such as 
constituted a positive advance and progress in insight 
into the Scriptures, as compared with anything that 
had been attained before in the history of the Church.^ 
That this great providential blessing was not duly 
improved, that it was in various ways mismanaged and 
marred by the generation on which it fell, and others 
that came after, is but too like the common history of 
God's best gifts. Nevertheless, the attainments of the 
Reformation go down to all following generations, 
placing them in a different position with reference to 
doctrinal knowledge from that occupied by any genera- 
tion which went before. 

So, then, the developments in the history of the 
Church have been mixed, as man is mixed. We be- 
lieve that the gracious presence and working of the 
Holy Spirit does not forsake the Church. He so 
presides and influences, as to secure that the whole 
course of things shall be a history of grace dealing with 
men in a manner worthy of God's mercy and patience. 
There is a proper progress in the divine conduct of all 

1 Note L. 

Lect. v.] summary. 223 

human affairs, but most eminently of those of His 
Church. However, the manner In which It Is made 
good Is hidden from us. And it Is a vain thing to 
talk of fixing, by any Internal test or criterion, which 
are the legitimate and which are the spurious develop- 
ments. True, indeed, all legitimate development of 
doctrine has Its intrinsic congruitles and evidences. 
But these are best seen when all is brought to another 
test, the true and permanent one. Each man on his 
own responsibility, the Church in each branch, and 
each age, on Its own, must bring all to the test of 
the word of God, studying the teaching of it in con- 
nection with all the best lights that can be prayerfully 

What has been said may now be summed up. Ac- 
cording to the constitution of things under which the 
New Testament Church was placed, there was room 
for doctrinal progress or development. Such develop- 
ment was not to consist merely in deductive Inference 
from principles established by Scripture, although 
Inference, like other mental processes, may enter into 
the general movement of mind by which development 
Is carried on. But it consists In a more full, exact, 
and detailed acquaintance with the teaching of Scrip- 
ture, embodied In the form of doctrine. This was a 
function which lay before the Church In her path of 
duty : provision was made for it In grace and in pro- 
vidence ; and it was to be pursued under the eye and 
with the expectation of the blessing of the Lord. But 
failure as well as success might follow : wrong paths 
as well as right ones might be entered and followed. 
Much of the work which In point of fact has proved to 

224 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

be needful, has been reformatory. It has been directed 
to undo corruption and error into which the Church, 
or sections of it, have gone astray. 

In connection with this function there are permanent 
acquisitions — attained results in theology ; meaning 
by theology, the exact and orderly declaration of the 
human understanding of God's Revelation. Steps of 
progress are made good ; nor is each generation pre- 
cisely in the state of that which first started under the 
completed Revelation. Past decisions do not bind 
the faith of any one before God. Yet true it is, that 
at successive periods one question after another, that 
is of permanent importance for the human mind as 
engaged in the study of divine truth, is raised into 
special prominence. It engages the attention and 
concentrates the labour of qualified minds. And it is 
a possible thing, to take the lowest ground, that, amid 
all the imperfections attendant on human studies and 
debates, the question so raised may receive its sub- 
stantial answer, on which no material alteration can 
henceforth be made. Thus the decisions regarding 
the Trinity and the Person of Christ in the fourth and 
fifth centuries, and those in the Pelagian controversy 
in the fifth, were great steps in the doctrinal history of 
the Church. They brought a firmness and compre- 
hensiveness, a light and order, into the views of the 
Church which did not exist before. They served the 
purpose of moving difiiculties out of the path of the 
Christian learners of succeeding times, and clearing 
the way to fresh points of view for ' further lookings on.' 
They may be misused, probably they often are mis- 
used, by orthodox people who make binding traditions 

lect. v.] successive attainments. 225 

of them. But that should not hinder us from acknow- 
ledging, that truth attained with a general consent in 
one generation, should go over to the generation fol- 
lowing as a benefit to them. It is a communicable 
attainment, which we receive from our predecessors, 
and ought to hand on revised and increased to those 
who come after us. The labour having been once 
gone through, the mental conflict achieved, the con- 
fusions cleared up, the partial views completed, those 
who follow may benefit by the process. They may 
come more speedily to a just perception of the way in 
which those debated questions ought to be disposed 
of; and so, reaping the fruit of past providence of 
God and toil of man, may pass on to the work and 
debate of their own day. 

Therefore, also, it is reasonable to cherish a respect- 
ful regard to former judgments of the Church, not only 
because there is a common faith of all believers in all 
ages, in fellowship with which we desire to abide, but 
also because former believers are our fellow-labourers 
in this matter of doctrine, and we are theirs, — fellow- 
labourers not merely by mutual consent, but by divine 

However, in connection with the principles which 
have been explained, no fair presumption lies against 
a deliverance on a doctrinal matter, when ultimately 
reached, on the ground that the early teaching of the 
Church did not come up to it. That may be so, and 
yet the deliverance in question may be thoroughly 
well rooted in God's word. It is true, indeed, that all 
detail of doctrine, at whatever period brought out, will 

226 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

be found to be congruous to the Church's earliest and 
constant faith. It will be of a piece with that. Yet 
Scripture is the authoritative criterion, not any con- 
gruity of this kind, real or supposed. If the latter 
were the criterion, it would be impossible to apply it 
with success in any doubtful case. 

Further still, the development here supposed is not 
a development outside of the Scriptures, or supple- 
mentary to them. It is a development up to the 
Scriptures ; and the Scriptures always are above it, as 
the perfect standard never fully reached. There is 
ample room for it, just because the Scriptures, on 
grounds already stated, are so much more and deeper 
than all that man teaches out of them. Thus room is 
made for whatever of genuine growth and movement 
the history of mankind requires. Yet the perfection 
and sufficiency of Scripture remain. Nor is any ne- 
cessity implied for a guarantee such as the infallible 
Church is supposed to supply. 

It agrees with what has been said, that we should 
think of normal and genuine progress in this depart- 
ment as being not spasmodic and fitful, but in general 
secular and slow. It does not transfarm the Church's 
familiar faith, but widens and glorifies it. Yet no 
absolute rule can be laid down. For new convictions 
sometimes tarry long at the door, and break into 
men's minds at last in a sudden manner. This may 
be expected especially when the work to be done is 
to sever man's corruption from God's truth by a 
new and more intense realization and application of 
the latter. The world- has seen in the Reformation 
how a force long preparing may sometimes suddenly 

Lect. v.] not always the present work. 227 

break loose and set men forth, as it were, into a new 

If the past is to be surveyed under the influence of 
these views, their application to the present, and the 
future also, is not to be excluded. The main duty, 
indeed, of believers, is to hold fast and use aright the 
great treasure of truth which is open in the Scrip- 
tures to all humble and upright souls, the report of 
which resounds in the Church of God, and which 
needs no new disclosure, except that which the Holy 
Spirit gives inwardly by His grace. Yet it would be 
simply profane to assume that nothing more is to be 
learned, or that nothing is to be unlearned, from the 
teaching of the Scripture. However, I would not 
have it thought that, from the views presented, one 
must conclude the developing of doctrine to be at all 
times the Church's especial work or calling. Even 
when the Church's work is development, — the un- 
folding in some new form of the resources with which 
she has been supplied, — it is a development in many 
different ways, in which now one force takes the lead, 
now another. The conditions of the human mind 
and the human race subject the Church to various 
kinds of discipline. In consequence, they prepare 
and dispose the Church to various kinds of effort, to 
which her energies are applied successively. It may 
be new light is thrown on duty ; or it may be new 
intensity is communicated to practical life. Or if 
controversy and speculation call her out, it may not 
be that kind of controversy nor that walk of thought 
which tells directly on doctrine. In our own day, for 
instance, what meets us is the question, ' How will you 

228 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

face and what will you make of history — the history 
of the earth, the history of the race and of nations, 
the history of the human mind, the history of re- 
ligions, the history of your own religion ?' Here the 
question has regard, not so much to this doctrine 
or to that, but rather to the credibility of any and of 
all doctrines. 

I am tempted to produce one topic among the 
objects of Christian thought, in connection with which 
labour has been spent ever since the gospel began to 
be received ; in connection with which also, it may, I 
think, be made credible that there could not but be 
development, that there has been development, and 
that there is room for development still ; and all this 
in consistency with the substantial continuity of the 
one faith, and constant reliance on the authority of 
Scripture as supreme and conclusive. 

The New Testament teaching is led up to by the 
Old. In the Old Testament, the elements and 
grounds are prepared, by means of which the New 
Testament Revelation became possible. And while 
the New Testament throws back so great a flood of 
light on the Old, the full appreciation of the New — 
the full and exact perception of its whole teaching — 
depends greatly on attaining, as much as may be, the 
key to the peculiar method, the trains of thought and 
principles of dispensation and dealing embodied in 
the Old. There is, of course, a great deal in the Old 
Testament, the evangelical use of which for edifica- 
tion does not need to wait for perfect theories about 
it. It would be sheer pedantry to think so. But 
disciplined insight into the very tracks of Old Testa- 

Lect. v.] theory of the dispensations. 229 

ment thought and deed, Is no doubt a material condi- 
tion of full intelligence of the whole detail of New 
Testament teaching. Any one must see it who will 
observe how much the minds of the apostles move in 
the region of Old Testament Scripture. 

Very well. Now, from the very beginning, the 
Church has laboured at this question, ' What to think 
of the Old Testament ? ' She never doubted that the 
Old Testament was the promise and prophecy of the 
New, nor hesitated to take the Old Testament sayings 
In the sense and application which they suggested to 
New Testament ears and New Testament hearts. 
She never doubted that, all through the Old Testa- 
ment, the voice and footfall of a coming Saviour were 
to be heard. She could not doubt that of the Old 
Testament, because she thoroughly believed the New. 
But how that was to be made out and shown histori- 
cally, looking at the Old Testament as the actual 
system under which many generations had lived, — 
here was the question. How were the lines to be 
traced along which the Old Testament should be 
conceived advancing to the New ? One of the 
earliest pieces of extant Christian literature, the 
epistle ascribed to Barnabas, — certainly not his, yet 
treated with great respect in the early Church, and 
probably belonging to the earliest part of the second 
century,^ — is just an elaborate and a highly unsuccess- 
ful attempt to solve this question. And thoughtful 
men were never weary of It. The allegorical system of 
Interpretation, in all its forms and degrees, just repre- 
sents the interest that was felt in it. That system has 

1 Note M. 

23& DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

been spoken of, most unjustly in my opinion, as if it 
betokened the mere idle fancifulness, the unchastened 
dreaming of unwise interpreters. Certainly it gave 
occasion, in the best of hands, to much interpretation 
which can only be read with a smile or with a sigh. 
But at bottom it represented the conviction that there 
was a meaning in the Old Testament, lying deep, 
worthy of that God in whose heart it was all along, 
for His great love, not to spare His own Son, but 
give Him up to the death for us. They were sure 
there was such a meaning ; and not being able always 
to find the door, they broke in through the wall, and 
carried out rubbish as well as gems. Many a contri- 
bution to the understanding of the problem has been 
made since then ; and still we are working at the Old 
Testament. Still we feel that there are clues yet to 
be got hold of- — that there is a method not thoroughly 
understood, fine connections going deeper than we 
have gone. We are still working at it, the one 
thoroughly incredible hypothesis being that it is a 
collection of merely human books, due to those reli- 
gious geniuses the Jews. And always a man's way of 
conceiving the Old Testament gives a certain set and 
mode of adjustment to his theology ; it modifies the 
attitude and the method in which he approaches the 
New Testament, and deals with the questions which 
may be raised respecting its teaching. 

It must always remain the duty and privilege of 
those who live on the earth as believers, in any 
generation, to apply the word of God, according to 
the measure of insight they may attain, on the one 
hand to sift and separate true and permanent from 

Lect. v.] attitude towards the past. 231 

false developments of Christian teaching ; on the 
other, to unfold that teaching, if it may be, yet more 
fully in relation to the lessons and the trials of their 
own time. In doing so, their attitude towards the 
past (and here must be understood principally the 
past labours of those who have put confidence in 
the Scriptures, and not of those who have wholly or 
partially subjected their teaching to some foreign 
standard) will be independent, yet it will be respect- 
ful and sympathetic. It will be governed by the 
feeling that there is communion in the truth on the 
part of God's children ; that the Church, whatever 
her infirmities, has been under a guidance higher and 
better than man's ; that her past labours are a great 
providential aid towards an understanding of Scrip- 
ture, and especially to our dealing aright with the 
questions which the past is bringing to birth in the 
present with which we have to do. There will be 
no anxious and fretful longing for originality ; for the 
originality which rejoices the man of God, is not 
the originality of man, but rather that direct and 
fresh learning of truth from the fountain of it — were 
it even of the oldest truths — which brings our minds 
near to God. But there will be independence, 
for we are servants of a living and a present Lord. 
Therefore also the attitude towards the Scriptures 
will be that of trust and expectancy. Of trust ; for 
what we have to do is not merely to prove or hold 
that certain things may be successfully argued out 
of the Scriptures, but to discern how the Spirit in 
the Scripture teaches these things ; and only in the 
Scripture itself can we learn that. And expectancy ; 

232 DEVELOPMENT. [Lect. V. 

for there is more in the Scriptures than man's teach- 
ing has unfolded, even as there is correction in the 
Scriptures, it may be, on points on which all schools 
have erred and failed. I suppose there never yet 
was a believing theologian who had not more in 
him by virtue of Scripture teaching than himself 
ever perceived the value and the bearing of, or was 
able to bring out. I suppose there never was an 
age of believing life in the Church, in which the 
Church had not impressions and virtual beliefs which 
remained unspoken. And I am sure that there are 
wonderful things in God's law which our eyes are 
not yet opened to see. For let it be remembered 
that, apart from new articles, or new modes of choosing 
between old alternatives, or progress towards reducing 
into rule and measure the mysterious elements of 
the faith, a new character may be given to knowledge 
already acquired, by more exquisite perception of 
the sense of terms and moral value of great thoughts, 
by juster appreciation of the degrees of evidence 
of its several parts, by fuller insight into its propor- 
tions and relations, by more adequate impressions of 
the degree in which we remain ignorant, by truer 
perception of the moral perspective and the moral 
harmonies of the whole. Towards the Scripture we 
must remain trusting, scrutinizing, expectant ; not 
because it is necessary for every man or every age 
to make discoveries in theology, not because it would 
be good for every man or age that they should, but 
because we must be true to our one Teacher. 

Nor should we forget, that all attainments and 
developments of which we speak, however secular 

Lect. v.] present an imperfect state. 233 

and slow, are attainments in a state of things, impor- 
tant indeed, yet after all provisional and preparatory. 
For here we see through a glass, darkly ; but when 
that which is perfect is come, then that which is in 
part shall be done away. 



WE need not be surprised if, in dealing with 
this matter of doctrine, or in dealing with 
one another about it, we meet with difficulties. 
Neither need we be surprised if we find all our 
methods imperfect, failing in one respect or another 
to reach the end which we aim at. Our ways of 
coming to an understanding with one another, and 
of applying that understanding when it has been 
arrived at, partake of the mechanical and the outward ; 
they are approximative rather than exact. And 
such as they are, we never use them with perfect 

Creeds are among the matters in connection with 
which some degree of difficulty has always been 
experienced. The difficulties are both theoretical 
and practical. They vary with the different uses 
to which creeds, or documents partaking of the 
character of creeds, are applied. Now, in point of 
fact, the leading uses with a view to which creeds 
have been constructed, have arisen out of diversities 
of judgment about the right way of conceiving and 
stating Christian truth. There may be some uses 
of creeds, which are independent of divisions and 
controversies. But yet the question of creeds is 


SO far entangled with the fact of division of judgment 
among people claiming to be Christians, as to make 
it fit for us to begin by considering how that fact is 
related to the calling of the Church and of Christians, 
and how it ought to be dealt with when at any time 
it occurs. 

Christians are joined together in one faith, and 
so have fellowship in truth as well as in love. They 
come under the same authority, and they profess to 
receive the same teaching. Yet diversities of opinion 
regarding parts or aspects of Christian truth arise 
among them, which are of very different degrees 
of importance. Some are insignificant. But when 
they reach a certain point, they occasion trouble. 
They disturb and perplex the common life and the 
united functions, or they tend to do so. When that 
point is reached, the case falls under the general 
rules given us in Scripture for managing offences, 
as well as under the special directions with respect 
to keeping the teaching delivered to us. When cause 
of offence arises in the Church of Christ, means are 
to be used to remove it. If it cannot be removed — 
dealt with in such a way as to avert or dismiss the 
element of scandal — there is sin somewhere pre- 
vailing, to the detriment of the community and of 
the Christian cause. If, for example, the offence 
arise out of a diversity of judgment with respect to 
Christian truth, one side at least must be in the 
wrong ; possibly both may be so to some extent ; 
and this error of one or both is not without some 
degree of sin. The early Chiliasts, for example, 
were wrong in their anticipations of a fanciful and 

236 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

carnal millennium ; and some of their opponents 
erred on the other side, in trying to cut the founda- 
tion from under Chiliasm by denying the authority 
of the Apocalypse. Then, supposing one side to 
be in the right entirely or mainly, it may fail to 
deal in a right and scriptural manner with those 
who are otherwise minded ; and so sin arises on that 
account. The Church of Rome miofht be in the 
right against some of the Manichsean sects of the 
middle ages on the doctrinal difference ; but she 
erred and sinned in dealing with them by a claim 
of absolute authority, and by bodily pains and 
penalties. Generally, the first duty, on occasion of a 
doctrinal difference that appears to be serious, is to 
try to remove it, in part or in whole, by a brotherly 
appeal to the supreme authority, with a view to 
friendly reconsideration of what is there set forth. 
Not very often has there proved to be, on both sides, 
so much faith, candour, and docility, as to secure 
a genuine use of this process, and to render it suc- 
cessful. It may be virtually accomplished, through 
the various forms of discussion, apart from formal 
and express conference. But however gone about, 
formally or informally, if it fails, the question comes to 
be. What next ? The difference has taken shape ; it 
has become more formal and obvious in virtue of 
discussion and comparison of opinions. What is to 
be done with it ? 

Here the first question that occurs is, whether the 
difference that occasions trouble may not be borne 
with — whether it may. not be allowed to exist, by 
tolerance and forbearance on either hand. Christ's 

Lect. VI.] DIVISIONS. 237 

Church was not meant to be a society in which men 
should be comfortably rid of all difficulties, by the 
process of turning them all out of doors. It was 
intended that much should be borne with, which it 
should require some trouble to adjust, some patience 
and magnanimity to tolerate, some wisdom to recon- 
cile with fidelity on the one hand, and with peace on 
the other. As a matter of fact, many diversities of 
judgment have led to divisions, either because men 
judged, on one side or both, that to tolerate the 
diversity was a course not consistent with the duty of 
believers and of the Church ; or because there was 
not enough of patience, good temper, and faith to 
take any other course. So there have been divisions, 
sometimes of individuals, — cast out as unsound and 
errant members, — sometimes of larger bodies. There 
have been divisions : some of them, in the end at 
least, necessary and imperative ; others needless ; all 
of them involving sin somewhere, and all of them in- 
volving also the existence of error, on one side or on 

The rise of divisions in this way suggests two con- 
siderations, both bearing on the office of the Church 
about doctrines, but bearing upon It In different ways. 
On the one side, an Increased care in the department 
of doctrine Is naturally felt to be called for with every 
fresh experience of the fact that errors arise, and that 
Irreducible misunderstandings are possible. This in- 
creased care tends towards fuller and more thoughtful 
explanation. It may produce greater sobriety of 
statement ; It usually does produce greater ampli- 
tude and fulness of definition. On the other side, 

238 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

the very fact of divisions brings clearly out the possi- 
bility of error ; it suggests the fallibility of human 
judgments, and reminds all parties of the appeal to 
a higher tribunal, where decisions are infallible and 

These differences of opinion, and the divisions which 
have often followed upon them, do not exist simply 
as divisions between masses of Christians, greater or 
smaller. It is not merely that sets of men lean to 
different sides of contested questions, and in some 
cases break fellowship and part company. The action 
of the Church comes in at some point. The Church, 
whether by a virtual and approximate unanimity or 
by a majority, exercising or claiming to exercise 
functions entrusted to her by her Master, comes in 
at some point with her decision, and follows it up, 
commonly with some disciplinary application of it. 
Ultimately, indeed. Church powers and authority are 
generally claimed and exercised by each of the 
dividing parties, as Romanists and Protestants alike 
claim right to wield the keys, according to their 
several conceptions of the ends for which the keys 
were given. But often, before this last result is 
attained, there is a point at which a decision is pro- 
nounced in the name of the Church as previously 
organized, — a decision which can plead on its behalf 
the authority, less or more, of the ecclesiastical powers 
that be, proceeding according to their ordinary rules. 
The Nestorians had ultimately a hierarchy of their 
own ; but a decision had previously gone against 
them from the Church authority of that time. It 
might be complained of on various grounds ; but it 


could hardly be denied to be a decision which, upon 
the principles recognised by all parties before the 
dispute arose, was ecclesiastically valid. On the 
other hand, in the case of the disputes and the schism 
between East and West, there was no such decision. 
The two parties fell asunder, each carrying with it its 
own ecclesiastical resources, and its own ecclesiastical 
position. East could not produce against West, nor 
West against East, any ecclesiastical decision of the 
quarrels between them that had even a plausible pre- 
tence to be called QEcumenical, or to proceed from an 
authority once recognised by them both. But that is 
not the common case. 

The respect due to such decisions, reached by what 
both parties in a difference or division have previously 
recognised as the Church, or as the regular and ordi- 
nary tribunal of the Church, is, of course, itself a 
matter of debate. The Romish and the Protestant 
communions, for instance, assign very differently the 
authority pertaining to such decisions, and the respect 
that is due to them. It follows that the Church of 
Rome is very differently situated from the Protestant 
communions, in reference to the question of giving 
effect, by disciplinary measures, to the judgments at 
which she has arrived. According to the Church of 
Rome, when a doctrinal question has been decided 
by the supreme ecclesiastical authority, the decision is 
divine information to all the members of the Church. 
There can be no doubt, therefore, about the propriety, 
or lawfulness at least, of exacting submission, and 
cutting off from the Church those who refuse it. They 
are directly rebelling against divine guidance. The 

240 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

propriety of disciplinary procedure hardly needs, on 
their principles, any separate or additional vindication. 
But, according to Protestants, Church decisions, what- 
ever respect may be due to them, do not of themselves 
bind the conscience. Supposing, therefore, a Protes- 
tant Church, by the appropriate organs, to come to a 
decision of some disputed question, that decision may 
settle the view prevalent in the Church as to what the 
Scripture teaches upon the point, and so it settles the 
view on which the Church is to proceed in her practice. 
But it does not directly settle how the Church ought 
to proceed upon her view ; it does not settle what 
effect she may and ought to give to it, e.g., in the case 
of those members of the Church who are persuaded 
that the Scripture does noi teach so. The Church 
must of course regard them as in error ; but how they 
should be dealt with is a question not settled by the 
Church's authoritative utterance and publication of her 
own mind. Some further materials must be brought 
in : either direct Scripture teaching as to the way in 
which error should be dealt with ; or information, 
from the same source, with respect to the ends 
which the Church is to aim at, and the way in which 
the fellowship of believers was intended to be regu- 
lated and maintained. 

There is one fundamental division which at all 
events has to be reckoned with, viz. the division be- 
tween Church and world, between the believers and 
the unbelievers. With respect to the contrast here 
implied, it is quite certain that it is part of the duty of 
believers, whether in the station of private Christians 
or of office-bearers, to hold out the truth to those 


without. It will not be denied that this ought to be 
done in such a way as to convey correct and full im- 
pressions of what the Christians believe. Every kind 
of legitimate explanation may be resorted to, and the 
mode of statement may be adapted to the wants, 
character, and training of those who are to be dealt 
with. If this be the duty of individuals, it can hardly 
be disputed that the whole society may do the same. 
They may sanction with the weight of their consent and 
approbation, given through the appropriate organs, 
statements that are intended for expository purposes. 
Again, one of the functions of the Christian Church is 
to carry on teaching — to administer, explain, and apply 
truth out of the Scriptures. This instruction ought, of 
course, to be adapted to the prevailing condition and 
temptations of the Church. It is carried on by the 
gospel ministry as well as by parents and others. And 
probably no one will dispute that, for this purpose also, 
the Church might set forth statements of views and 
principles generally assented to as taught in the Scrip- 
tures, in order to call attention to the points which 
might seem to require it most, and to provide a help 
and guide for the labours of individual teachers. The 
riofht of the Church to enforce such teachingf, or to 
exclude contrary teaching on the part of its office- 
bearers, may be doubted or denied. That, as imply- 
ing division of judgment, will be spoken to presently. 
But the right of the Church as an organized society 
to have a mind in these things, to express it, to exhibit 
it as the belief in accordance with which all action on 
her part, in every sphere in which action is required 
of her, is regulated, can hardly be disputed. A state- 


242 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

ment so produced is a creed ; it is a statement adapted 
to one of the ends of creeds. It has its authority partly 
from the prevaiHng consent which it expresses, partly 
from the official character of the Church as a witness 
of the truth. Even if constructed solely for the hold- 
ing forth of positive belief, it will still be levelled at 
error in various articles ; for one of the great in- 
fluences which form doctrines into the shape they 
assume in individual minds and in Church decisions, 
is the rise of errors. But so far as creeds erow under 
the influence of the general object now under con- 
sideration, they tend to become expanded statements 
of positive determinations, put together so as to exhibit 
a full and orderly array of teaching. So considered, 
the creed is, as it were, the Church's answer to the 
world's question : ' You, who live with us in this 
changing world, have, as you profess, a divine revela- 
lion. What has it taught you.'^' The answer is 
jpartly in the Church's renewed life ; partly it is 
summed up in the creed : ' It has taught us to hold, 
apply, and rely upon such truths as these.' 

I do not think it necessary to waste time in vindi- 
cating the right of the Church to frame creeds for such 
purposes as these.^ The topic may have to be re- 
ferred to again in the course of this discussion. For 
the present, it serves to suggest that, even if no errors 
or heresies had embarrassed the Church's progress, 
creeds might still have had their use. Even in that 
case, conceivable, though impossible, the Church, or 
any branch of the Church, might have thought it right 

^ Not that it is universally admitted. See The Confessional^ p. 58, 
2d ed., Lond. 1767. 

Lect. VI.] APOSTLES' CREED. 243 

to set forth officially the faith of the whole society, in 
forms suggested by the point of progress reached, or 
by the existing state of human minds. But, on the 
supposition now made, it is not easy to suggest reasons 
for any great activity in the production of such forms. 
The necessities might probably be well enough pro- 
vided for by the spontaneous activity of members and 
office-bearers in their mutual fellowship. At all events, 
the leading influence which in point of fact has deter- 
mined the setting forth of creeds (those, that is to say, 
which state doctrine with any fulness or exactness), 
has been the existence of diversity of judgments, 
leading in the end to separation. The practical force 
which has stimulated and exercised the minds of men 
in their activity about doctrine has been the collision 
of opinion ; and the practical work of the collective 
Church in this department has turned very much on 
these diversities of judgment, and on the divisions ta 
which they led. 

This remark may perhaps appear less applicable to 
the earlier forms of creed. If we take that which 
we call the Apostles' as an example,^ we may be 
disposed to think It related to no differences among 
professing Christians, but only to the fundamental dif- 
ference between Church and world, — a view perfectly 
agreeable to the fact that this creed was, or arose out 
of, the profession made by those who passed into the 
kingdom of light by baptism. It is occupied with 
setting forth very briefly the chief facts delivered to 
faith concerning Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, into 

^ A purpose which it may serve well enough, although its present 
form is not the earliest nor the simplest. 

244 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

whose name the catechumen was baptized, combined 
with a reference to the great hopes which we cherish 
through grace. There may seem to be in it, therefore, 
no more than the simplest form of declaring that he, 
who erewhile had been a child of darkness, was now 
assuming the position and claiming the jDrivileges of a 
child of light. That, no doubt, is the leading con- 
ception of it. Hence almost all Christians that are 
now in the world can accommodate themselves to the 
acceptance of it as the non-controversial creed ; though 
it may be apprehended that the sense in which some 
of them must take it for this purpose is far from 
that originally intended, and originally felt to be in the 
words. However, what I w^ish now to say, is that the 
Apostles' Creed, however seemingly simple, does settle, 
and was probably meant to settle, some of the ques- 
tions raised by the speculative sects of the second 
century. The words are silently chosen in such a 
way, that they bring up aspects of the faith sufficient 
to shut their speculations out. The very first article 
shuts out almost all, if not quite all, of the Gnostic sects, 
for it subverts and excludes the Gnostic doctrine of a 
Demiurg-e.^ When we come to creeds like the Nicene," 
the effect of controversy is of course apparent. The 
tendencies which might incline men to take a low view 
of our Lord's pre-existent nature, and to lay down a 
developed doctrine adverse to His true Godhead, had 
been felt ; and therefore the old forms of setting forth 
the faith were modified by others intended to shut out 

^ Note A. 

^ Creeds considerably older might be specified, but the Nicene is 
better known. 


the error, and to express, as the Church's faith, the 
affirmation of His Eternal Sonship in the divine un- 
created nature. Still more elaborately and emphati- 
cally, the same character attaches to succeeding creeds, 
such as that which bears the name of Athanasius. Other 
conclusions and deliverances, which did not so decidedly 
take the creed form, were employed substantially in the 
same way and for the same purpose, that is, as instru- 
ments by which the Church made her collective voice 
felt, and gave effect to her influence in favour of what 
was regarded as the true view of disputed questions. 

The Reformation confessions^ adopt in substance 
the deliverances of the early creeds, sometimes re- 
duplicating upon them in express terms. They take 
up, in addition, a large range of new questions ; for 
the controversy with Rome had opened an immense 
line of discussion, and determinations on the chief 
points of difference passed naturally into the Refor- 
mation confessions, as counter determinations were 
embodied in due time in the decrees of Trent, and 
in the creed of Pius iv. It is to be remembered, 
however, that in drawing up the Reformation con- 
fessions, the object in view was not merely to utter 
an ecclesiastical decision of controverted questions, 
which might be ecclesiastically enforced. The object 
was to give an authentic account of the doctrine 
which each reformed church regarded as sanctioned 
by the Scriptures, and would be understood as pre- 
pared to teach among the people ; and this in order 
to bring out clearly the Christian and evangelical 
character of the reformed teaching, and wipe off 

1 Note B. 

246 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

aspersions and slanders. The earliest Reformation 
confession, that of Augsburg, which afterwards held 
so prominent a place in the body of Lutheran sym- 
bols, was originally intended, as is very well known, 
solely for this purpose of giving information. The 
application of it to regulate the teaching and disci- 
pline of Lutheran churches w^as a secondary and sub- 
sequent thing. On the contrary, the other leading 
Lutheran symbol, the Formula Concordiae, was ex- 
pressly planned to be an authoritative settlement of 
theological questions which divided the Lutheran 
Church, or which might be introduced into it ; and 
it was intended to be enforced, as it was in fact, by 
ecclesiastical authority, and indeed by civil authority 
also. It served, of course, the purpose of informing 
the world how the Lutheran Church believed and 
taught ; but the other was its original and direct 
design.^ The object in view in those earlier Re- 
formation confessions, that of giving information as 
to tenets in which the framers were in point of fact 
agreed, explains the range of subjects gone over, and 
the manner in which they are presented in those 
confessions. These are features in which they differ 
from the early creeds. At the same time, a very 
considerable influence must be ascribed to the fact 
that theological system had by this time entered 
powerfully into the habits of religious thought. This 
influence has communicated a special character to 
all the later efforts in the department of confession, 
as compared with those of the early Church. 

^ Similar remarks apply to some of the early Swiss confessions, as 
contrasted with the P'ormula Consensus Helvetici. 


Whatever the original design of those confessions, 
they came to be applied ultimately, like the older 
creeds, for the purpose of regulating the discipline 
of the Church in the department of doctrine : either 
as containing the law which the Church was prepared 
to enforce, if in any case its intimations were dis- 
regarded ; or as expressing the personal faith and 
judgment which the Church expected to be uttered 
by those who were admitted to membership or to 
office. Some use of creeds, therefore, for such pur- 
poses has prevailed in almost every age of the 
Church. The precise application has varied. For 
example, it became usual, j^robably at a very early 
period, for catechumens at their baptism to express 
their faith in some brief summary, although the utter- 
ance of it was regarded rather as a Christian privi- 
lege and dignity than as a mere test. This plan has 
not been always followed. The objects which the 
Church has in view, viz. to see to the instruction of 
those who are received to full communion, and to 
ascertain that they receive the common faith, may 
be attained without the formal application of a creed. 
Those objects are provided for at present, in various 
branches of the Church, without that instrumentality. 
On the other hand, it is the reception of creeds by 
office-bearers that now-a-days claims precise regula- 
tion, and chiefly occasions discussion. Although the 
body of worshippers in many branches of the 
Church are called upon to recite the ancient creeds 
as part of divine service, it is the office-bearers alone, 
in general, who are placed under precise personal 
obligations by the application of creeds ; whereas in 

248 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

the earliest days it would be difficult to prove that 
any fixed creed, in addition to the baptismal formula, 
was anywhere in use for office-bearers. The churches 
satisfied themselves by other means that those who 
were chosen were trustworthy men. 

The question arises, then, whether the formation 
and use of creeds, intended to be thus applied, is 
a legitimate office or function for the Church to under- 
take. The argument in behalf of the Church's right 
may be very briefly stated. It is assumed that 
Church fellowship includes, as one of its elements, the 
joint confession of the truth ; also that one function 
of the Church — a function to which ' office power ' 
ought to be applied — is to oversee this fellowship ; and 
that another is to look to the maintenance of genuine 
Christian teaching, as distinguished from that which 
is spurious and subversive.^ But the discharge of 
these functions implies that the Church shall pro- 
nounce upon certain doctrinal positions. It does 
not matter, at this point, whether the extent of 
doctrine which the Church ought to deal with in this 
form is great or small. Some such work, be it 
more or less, is implied in the function ascribed to 
the Church. A creed is the gathering together of 
determinations which may and must exist, in the 
same or equivalent terms, in the Church's action 
about individual cases of admission or deposition. 
Certain doctrines the Church cannot allow the w^ant 
of; certain others she cannot allow the presence of 
What they are, or what some of them are, is stated 

1 2 Pet. ii. I ; Jude 4 ; Acts xx. 29, 31 ; Rom. xvi. 17 ; i Tim. v. 22, 
vi. 3, 5 ; 2 Tim. ii. 2 ; Tit. i. 9-13, iii. 10 ; Rev. ii. 20. 

Lect. VI.] OBJECTIONS. 249 

for the guidance of those it may concern. The 
statement being based on Revelation, becomes a creed. 
This is only the more formal, deliberate, and considerate 
performance of a duty involved in every authoritative 
act falling into the categories referred to above. 

The main objections against creeds and confessions 
are embodied in the allegation that they prejudice the 
just authority of Scripture, and also the just liberty 
of members and ministers of the Church.] Under 
the first branch of the allegation, it is maintained, not 
indeed that creeds, as used in Protestant churches, 
impeach the sole authority of Scripture plainly and 
directly, but that they do so virtually and practically. 
For, it is argued, they bring an immensely powerful 
influence to bear in favour of the reception of a human 
form of v/ords as the authorized exposition of revealed 
truth. Their operation, therefore, tends to bind up 
the Church in a human system, and to hinder the 
proper influence of the inspired writings in moulding 
and swaying the thoughts of believers. This is re- 
presented as especially objectionable, because the in- 
fluence employed for this purpose is a peculiar one. 
It is Church discipline, i.e. the administration of 
authority about ordinances instituted by Christ, ordi- 
nances in which all believers have a divinely-conferred 
interest and right. To apply this form of influence to 
the purpose now referred to, is represented as a bold 
misapplication of it. Hence, on the one hand, the 
proper standard, the word of God, is made to speak 
through the mouthpiece of a human summary ; on the 
other hand, the liberty of the members of the Church 
is prejudiced : they are subjected to an abridgment of 

250 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

their rights, and also to a form of temptation which the 
Church has no right to inflict upon them. Various 
injurious consequences are represented as ensuing; 
among others, this, that the proper study of the word 
of God is impeded, and the proper fruits of such study 
are diminished. Men are compelled, or tempted, to 
confine their thoughts to a fixed mould which man 
has provided. This, it is said, is objectionable simply 
because the mould is human, apart from the possibility 
of its being distorted. This consequence, and many 
others, may be expanded and illustrated in various 
ways. The main strength of the objection, however, 
lies, I think, in the considerations just now stated. 
Some of the objectors connect their argument with 
the more extensive position, that the Church has no 
right to censure or exclude on account of any doc- 
trinal opinions, or, at any rate, has no right to exact 
the acknowledgment of any but the most obvious, 
rudimentary, and uncontroverted Christian beliefs. 
Others, however, maintain the right of the Church 
to supervise the doctrinal teaching, and to censure 
serious errors ; but they consider that this duty would 
be best discharged by a direct appeal to Scripture, in- 
terpreted by the present mind and heart of the Church 
as each case arises. Therefore they also, in the manner 
suited to their own point of view, appropriate and urge 
the objections to creeds which have been stated. 

Before dealing with these objections, it is proper to 
make an admission. That creeds and confessions are 
warrantable and expedient, is the thesis which I main- 
tain. But it is freely admitted that churches have 
existed, and do exist, which maintain scriptural doc- 


trine and effective discipline without the aid of docu- 
ments of this kind. The Congregational churches 
generally occupy this position.^ In such cases, as we 
maintain, the very same work is done, in a less advan- 
tageous manner, which with us is done in a more 
advantageous. The creed is extemporized in each 
particular case in which doctrine comes into view ; or 
rather the creed, which exists as an understanding 
in the minds of the community, — formed, under the 
guidance of Scripture, by the habit of dealing with 
the doctrinal responsibilities of church life, — is applied 
to each case by a somewhat rougher process than 
with us. In their practice, no doubt, they may some- 
times escape the inconveniences attendant on pre- 
cision. On the other hand, we, in ours, escape some 
of those which are connected with vagueness. From 
our point of view, it seems more than doubtful whether 
the system which our friends prefer could be exten- 
sively worked by any but Congregational churches." 
We doubt also whether their system, in effect, pro- 
motes any enlarged degree of reliance on Scripture 
only, or any greater measure of individual liberty. 
However that may be, the admission remains, that 
formally documented creeds have been dispensed with 
altogether in churches which have continued to give 
rigorous effect to their doctrinal responsibilities. But 
it Is not admitted that the application of one single 
principle of Church action, which we apply in our ad- 
ministration by a confession. Is dispensed with by the 
churches now referred to. They also apply an inter- 
pretative subordinate standard, but It is not written. 
1 Note C. 2 Note D. 

252 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

In reply to the objections urged against creeds, 
arguments are sometimes pleaded in a form too ab- 
solute and wide to be convincinor. It has often been 
said, for instance, that the Church is surely as free as 
any society to fix her own terms of membership and 
office. No one is forced to become a member of the 
Church. Every one is free to judge for himself, 
whether or no he can comply with the terms. In 
these circumstances, to prohibit the Church to make 
her own rules, on pretext of maintaining the liberty 
of individuals, is in fact to assail liberty. It is to 
withhold from the Church, in the name of liberty, the 
liberty to give effect to her own constitution, and her 
own responsibilities, by effective administrative pro- 
visions and conditions, — a liberty inherent in every 
society, and a liberty which may be presumed to 
inhere especially in a society which derives authority 
from divine institution. To this the objector may 
reply, that the question of course is simply this, not 
whether the Church ought to have liberty, but what 
view the Church ought to take of her own liberty, 
and of the manner in which power should be ex- 
ercised. The Church may hold herself free to do 
everything which she is ordained to do — everything 
that is plainly implied in her appointed functions. But 
she ought not to hold herself free to do anything that 
will prejudice the rights conferred on her members. 
It is a duty binding on believers to be members of 
the Church, and they have rights which ought not to 
be burdened or abridged without a plain warrant. It 
is argued, therefore, that to make the acceptance of 
any specific form of human words binding, is to im- 


pose a new burden on consciences. This, in the 
absence of clear Scripture authorizing it, must be 
regarded as an excess — a trespass which prejudices 
previous rights. On this state of the argument, it is 
to be admitted that the plea of the liberty inherent in 
voluntary societies to fix their own constitution and 
terms of membership is not sufficient. Nor is it even 
sufficient, in addition, to prove that the doctrines con- 
tained in the Church's confession can be each of them 
vindicated as to their truth from Scripture. It must 
be further shown that the application of some such 
method as this, materially identical with it, or equiva- 
lent to it, is required of the Church, or falls necessarily 
to her in the discharge of her appointed functions. 

Another line of argument pursued by the defenders 
of confessions turns on the difference between mem- 
bers and office-bearers. In most branches of the 
Church, private members are not subjected to any 
precise or stringent testing by means of the Church's 
creed. Those only are subjected to this process who 
are admitted to office. Now, in regard to the allega- 
tions that creeds tend to stereotype the minds of men 
in traditional forms, and to obstruct that frank investi- 
gation of Scripture which might detect errors in re- 
ceived views, and open the way to new truth, it has 
been maintained that the membership at all events are 
free to search, canvas, and discover, even if those who 
take office for good and sufficient reasons submit to 
some abridgment of their liberty. Then, again, it is 
maintained that even in their case this abridement is 
rather apparent than real. Office-bearers are not held 
bound to believe no more than the creed. Believing 

254 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

that, they may go on to build upon it whatever they 
find taught in Scripture. Moreover, if they are led to 
think that Scripture does not authorize, or positively 
condemns, the received teaching in any point, they are 
entitled and bound to follow the guidance of Scripture, 
only resigning their office if they cannot persuade 
the Church to agree with them. The pathways of 
Scripture investigation, therefore, lie open as before ; 
the duty of searching out the meaning of Scripture, 
and the right to follow its guidance only, remain un- 
impeached and unobstructed by the use of creeds or 
confessions, at least in churches which are genuinely 
Protestant. Such is the argument. There is one part of 
it on which I should be indisposed to lay much stress 
in dealing with the objection now under considera- 
tion, — I mean the distinction taken between the case of 
ordinary members and that of office-bearers. The dis- 
tinction between the position of these two classes, with 
reference to confessions, is certainly very important on 
some accounts ; but in so far as concerns the duty of 
the Church to maintain the influence of Scripture on 
believing minds, and to do justice to Scripture teaching, 
it does not avail much to say that the ordinary mem- 
bers are free, even if the holders of office are in some 
sense bound. If the clergy are limited and confined, 
in their relation to Scripture, by subscription to con- 
fessions, then the whole Church is so. For that class 
is bound, as it Is presumably qualified, to go before the 
people in the whole department of thoughtful investi- 
gation of revealed truth ; and in point of fact, it is 
through the ministry in a very great degree that the 
contact of the average mind of the Church with re- 

Lect. VI.] ADMISSION. 255 

vealed truth, and its working about revealed truth, is 
regulated. The question returns, therefore, with a 
force little diminished : Are the office-bearers of the 
Church limited and prejudiced in their relation to 
Scripture by the application of creeds and confessions ? 
And far the best, because the candid reply, is, that 
confessions so applied do operate as a temptation 
which it is not always easy to overcome. Confessions, 
as I believe, are practically indispensable to the Church. 
They confer also most important benefits on those 
who are called to accept them, first by the guidance 
which they supply, and secondly by the decision and 
precision which the necessity of reckoning with them 
brings into men's views. But they do unquestionably 
tend, and they may sometimes powerfully tend, to bias 
men's minds with reference to the single-eyed investi- 
gation of truth. On this point, it is quite truly said 
by opponents of confessions, that they operate not so 
often by disposing a man to conceal his formed 
opinions, but rather by disposing him to avoid frank 
and perfectly sincere investigation when doubts or 
questions arise which, as he foresees, might bring him 
into collision with confessional teaching. He is 
tempted to form a habit of undue deference to the 
human document, to the consent which it expresses, 
and the antiquity which invests it. He is tempted to 
let himself be paralyzed with reference to every move- 
ment that might eventually lead him out of the road 
which human hands have mapped out for him. The 
temptations which operate in this connection are not 
necessarily sordid. Most often they are not so. 
There need be no profound sympathy with a man 

256 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

whose temptations turn on the retention or the sacri- 
fice of clerical income. But temptation may rise out 
of the strength and depth of the feelings with which 
he looks forward to the ministry as his life's work, or 
out of the habits and the ties which he has formed 
during years of life already devoted to it. Sacrifices 
of this kind may seem less capable of being borne ; 
and interests of this order may seem to have a right 
to command out of their way the difficulties which 
investigation, if pursued, might be found to raise. 

I do not understand, nor do I wish to understand, 
the state of mind of a man who has not felt tempta- 
tion arising from this quarter. The existence of it 
ouMit to be admitted. The occasional streno-th of it 
ought not to be denied. And the answer to the argu- 
ment grounded on it must be found simply in the 
position, that men were intended to deal with tempta- 
tions, to feel the force of them, and to overcome them. 
When they come to us in a way of duty, we shall be 
the better for them, if we deal rightly with them. 
Sources of temptation wantonly or needlessly created 
are always to be condemned. If the use of confessions 
ranks in this category, let them be condemned. But 
if it falls in the line of the proper duty of the Church, 
then the fact that certain temptations prove to be 
connected with them, need neither surprise us nor 
frighten us. But it may certainly dispose us to show 
caution, more caution than has sometimes been ex- 
hibited by churches in this department. 

Now the right of the Church to use creeds, with the 
view of sustaining them, by discipline, will best appear 
by considering the case of heresy. 

Lect. VI.] HERESIES, 257 

Heresy is doctrine persistently professed and main- 
tained which subverts what is fundamental in Chris- 
tianity. When any branch of the Church meets with 
doctrine which it deliberately judges to be thus sub- 
versive, that is, for it, a heresy. There may be doc- 
trines not properly designated by so severe a word, 
even though they are judged to be wrong, and to call 
both for opposition and for the use of all possible 
influence with a view to correction. But when a doc- 
trine appears, and is maintained, which is judged to 
subvert that which is fundamental, it is counted to be 
a heresy.^ It is of course admitted that, according to 
the different points of view that may be assumed, men 
may differ in their appreciation of what is fundamental 
in Christianity ; and in that case they will differ pro- 
portionally in their reckoning of what is properly to 
be called heresy. Men and churches will therefore 
make different applications of the idea which the term 
conveys ; yet to each it is an important idea, and for 
each it has an important bearing on practice. 

Even for the individual, the contact with heresy 
in the Church raises a serious question. He is par- 
taker in a fellowship in which the one truth is rejoiced 
in together, and confessed together. That need not 
make him intolerant of all differences. Amid many 
divergences of judgment fellowship may go on, each 
member receiving the other (as he was himself re- 
ceived by Christ) with what appear to be his imper- 
fections. But when the question comes to be of one 
who, professing to hold the Divine Revelation, teaches 
what appears to subvert it in the fundamentals, a 

1 Note E. 

258 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

difficulty is at once raised. Can or ought the fellow- 
ship or the common profession to be continued in 
that case ? Is it consistent with personal fidelity ? 
Is it consistent with a true reg^ard to the hig-hest 
interests of the heretic himself ? 

The Church, at all events, in regulating and over- 
seeing the fellowship of believers, as Church members, 
must take action in such cases. For her mission is 
to deal with sins and offences which break the com- 
munion of believers and deny the faith. The express 
maintenance of a doctrine which subverts the faith in 
fundamentals, can never be looked on as admissible 
in the communion that is built upon the faith, that 
lives in the profession of it, and that holds it forth to 
the world. Therefore the Church has always made 
it clear, that those who join in membership with her 
are expected to be one in faith, so far at least that 
errors of the kind now under consideration are not 
explicitly maintained. Beyond that point, it has never 
been usual to press hard on those who are only mem- 
bers of the Church, and are not entrusted with official 
influence. There are so many reasons, and so strong, 
for guarding their rights with peculiar care, — there is 
so much to suggest large allowances in the case of 
persons whose opportunities and attainments may 
vary indefinitely, — that acquiescence in the known 
teaching of the Church, or in its main articles, has 
generally been treated as sufficient. But in the case of 
those who occupy a representative position something 
more has been felt to be necessary. Some explicit 
evidence that they stand clear of heretical aberrations, 
it is reasonable to ask, and reasonable to render. 


Now the manner In which creeds come into being 
and operation, with reference to this necessity, stands 
in close connection with what we have seen already 
of the office of the believer and the Church In the 
matter of doctrine. We saw that there grows up, 
among believers and in the Church, an utterance of 
that which the revealed teachlnof has led them to 
think and to say. A meaning has grown up In many 
minds under that teaching ; it has assumed definite 
form, and it claims utterance. In a good degree, it Is 
a consenting or united utterance. And when heresy 
comes upon the field, the various anxious processes 
which result in creeds are In fact the formation, by 
the Church, of a solemn judgment, that so much of 
this meaning, carefully expressed, must be regarded 
as belonging to the consent and fellowship of Chris- 
tians ; or at least the formal and explicit denial of it 
must be regarded as a revolt from divine teaching in 
fundamentals, and as breaking the fellowship of the 
Church in the one truth. In order to come to such 
a judgment, the Church need not pretend to be 
infallible. It is enough If there be such a persuasion 
as will bear the weight of the responsibility incurred 
in deciding the practical question. Nor is it Implied 
that the mere words in which the decision happens to 
be couched are to be treated as sacred and essential. 
Athanaslus was willing to be considerate and for- 
bearing with reference to scruples at words in the 
Nicene Creed itself Still, words carefully selected 
In such circumstances to express a meaning, commonly 
do express it aptly ; so that, in practice, words and 
meaning have to go together. 

26o CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

Hence arise creeds, in so far as creeds are opposed 
to heresy. They express a portion of the meaning 
bred In Christian hearts and minds by revealed teach- 
ing. Concerning this portion, the Church has arrived 
at the conclusion that the denial of it must be treated 
as subverting the fundamentals, and as introducing 
into the Christian Church a discord that breaks com- 
munion. The application of creeds to office-bearers 
is first of all for the purpose of ascertaining that they 
are agreed with the Church in points of this kind. 
Assume that Arianism is a heresy ; assume that the 
Nicene Creed is the counter-statement fitted to ex- 
clude it, and to affirm the fundamental truth which 
Arianism assails ; then the application of this creed to 
office-bearers is for the purpose of ascertaining that 
on this fundamental at least, on which a difference 
has emerged which the Church judges to be intoler- 
able, those admitted to teach and rule are not repre- 
sentatives of the heresy. 

If it be part of the duty of the Church to see that 
those put in trust with the ministry are sound in the 
faith ; if for this purpose it Is right to enter into explana- 
tions, and to require them, — it does not appear unlawful 
or improper that a careful and well-considered explana- 
tion in selected words should be employed ; nor that 
it should be agreed upon with some solemnity at 
the entrance into the ministry. This line of argument 
will not, indeed, vindicate any and every form of 
creed ; for such forms may include a great deal more 
than what is simply fitted to affirm fundamentals 
against heresies, i.e. against forms of opinion which 
the Church feels bound to recognise and treat as 


heresies. But It does appear sufficient to vindicate 
the use of some form of creed. 

Moreover, it suggests a consideration which estab- 
lishes the same conclusion in another way. The 
Church does not exact, and ought not to exact, of her 
office-bearers complete uniformity of belief. Points are 
and ought to be left open on which men may differ ; 
agreed in receiving the same rule of faith, they may 
differ in their understanding of some parts of its teach- 
ing. In order, then, to justify disciplinary procedure, 
it is not enough to show that a minister holds views 
which the Church In general, if called to decide, would 
judge to be not scriptural. It must also be shown 
that they are views which ought not to be borne with 
in a minister. Those who say that discipline in the 
matter of erroneous doctrine ought to proceed in 
the method of a direct appeal to Scripture, and to 
Scripture alone, virtually prescribe to the Church the 
duty of solving a double problem in each case. Not 
only the question, Is this view, in our conscientious 
judgment, erroneous ? — but also this. Is it an error 
of such quality and magnitude that it ought not to 
be borne with ? — demands an answer. The second 
question Is often a delicate and difficult one. To 
leave it to be decided simply according to the im- 
pressions connected with each case, is to run the 
greatest hazard of arbitrary and Inconsistent procedure. 
On the other hand, to form a judgment, under the 
influence of experience, as to the matters in which 
cognizance by discipline should proceed, and those 
in regard to which forbearance is expedient and 
right, and to record that judgment as the common 

262 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

understandinof of the Church for the q^uidance of all 
parties, seems very expedient if not necessary. But 
this implies selection of topics and points ; and the 
selection is virtually a creed. It gives you, not the 
whole Scriptures as interpreted by the Church, but 
something drawn out of the Scriptures as so inter- 
preted. Something of the nature of a creed may thus 
be the proper protection against the imposition of an 
unqualified uniformity. 

So far, I have spoken of the case of heresy. I have 
spoken of it separately, because in point of fact it 
illustrates the way in which the early creeds acquired 
doctrinal precision. Besides, heresy is in its own 
nature a constraining ground of procedure. The case 
is not one in which mere expediencies are involved, 
or questions of more or less edification. Considera- 
tions here uro-e to action which are definite and 
peremptory. The case, therefore, is distinguishable 
in principle from others which may be mingled with it 
in ecclesiastical practice. But I do not pretend that 
confessions and articles are commonly limited to 
material of this kind ; neither will I maintain that 
they ought always to be so limited. Plainly, many 
points are determined in the Reformed confessions, 
of which no man will affirm that to decide them other- 
wise would be heresy in the sense in which I use the 
word. Confessions take a wider scope than the mere 
case of heresy. 

This wider scope is perhaps hardly to be vindicated 
on general and permanent grounds. A special justi- 
fication must be made out for it in each case. It 
might be well, therefore, for churches to cherish the 


consciousness that In their confessions there are two 
elements, or two strata of confessional matter. Those 
articles of the confession which exclude what the 
church in question is prepared to regard as heresy, 
constitute the solid core, which cannot alter unless 
the convictions of the whole Church should alter. 
Those articles which are not of this character may 
reasonably be regarded as the more variable element, 
which circumstances might require to be extended at 
one time and contracted at another.^ 

It would, indeed, be needless to advert to this dis- 
tinction, if confessions were Intended solely for the 
purpose of holding out to the world a' statement of 
what the Church, with a general consent, holds for 
true on scriptural authority. For this purpose, all 
that is needed to vindicate any article is, that it be 
received as grounded on Revelation, and that it be 
regarded as sufficiently Important to be distinctly 
stated. But we are at present dealing with con- 
fessions considered as tests of membership, and espe- 
cially of office. In this view, there is reason for 
discrimination and for limitation. It Is plain that, in 
placing limits on the admission of believers to mem- 
bership and to office beyond what is called for by 
some plain necessity, the Church is assuming con- 
siderable responsibility. All her definitions are, ad- 
mittedly, liable to imperfection ; and the further she 
proceeds with them beyond the point indicated by 
such plain necessity, the more likely she Is to manifest 
her fallibility. Besides, all such arrangements do no 
doubt tend, as already pointed out, to detain men's 

1 Note F. 

264 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

minds somewhat in a human form of thought and 
speech, and to supply motives that sway them power- 
fully against forsaking it or varying from it. Although 
I have argued that this is no sufficient reason against 
forming and applying such documents, it is a reason 
against carrying the process beyond the point sug- 
gested by some clear justification. 

But what that point is, can hardly, I fear, be deter- 
mined by mere theory ; certainly not by abstract and 
general theory, apart from consideration of the articles 
which it may be proposed to omit or to insert, their 
evidence, and their importance. Indeed, the extent 
to which symbolic writings shall be carried, must 
generally be regulated very much by a certain tact 
Avhich, in applying Scripture materials to this purpose, 
decides w^hat on the whole is reasonable, demanded 
by past and present necessities, and likely to work and 
to conduce to the various ends which are in view. 

The motives which may induce the introduction 
of matter into confessions, beyond the bare utterance 
of fundamental truths as against clear heresies, are 
various. I still speak of confessions as designed to 
regulate admission to office, and exclude from view 
for the present the use of them for the mere purpose 
of declaring the prevailing persuasion of the Church, 
or of a branch of It. 

Diversities of judgment on matters of doctrine, of 
which no enlightened man on either side will say that 
they involve the fundamentals, are sometimes attended 
with great practical perplexity. They do not hinder 
mutual recognition of one another as standing fast in 
the one faith ; and yet they do sometimes obstruct 


practical communion. That is to say, the adherents 
of the divergent views find it difficult, or impossible, 
to get on together. The measure of light which they 
possess, and the points of view which they occupy, 
render this practically certain. With a prevailing 
spirit of indifference the attempt might be made, and 
made with some measure of success ; but it would 
not be a desirable kind of success. Otherwise the 
attempt, if made, is found to issue in continual dis- 
trust, misunderstanding, and collision — in that serious 
kind of discomfort which partakes of the nature of 
scandal. It may be that the intensity of feeling con- 
nected with the points in dispute is too great. It 
may be that the truth held on either side inevitably 
suggests to the other a train of consequences in their 
view too necessary to be averted, and too repugnant 
to be endured. It may be that the difference runs 
into diverging views of practical duty too serious to 
be borne with. It may be that differences, which in 
a loosely constituted church give less trouble, would 
be fatal to the peace of one that is closely knit and 
organized for energetic action. A Wesleyan society 
may admit the Christian worth of decided Calvinists, 
but could hardly get on with such among its teachers. 
The Church of England can cohere, in its manner, 
notwithstanding many elements of contention ; but it 
would probably explode if men in Presbyterian orders 
were received among the clergy ; and their reception 
would be found unbearable by many, who would not 
maintain that ministrations by an episcopally ordained 
priesthood were absolutely necessary in order to sal- 

266 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

Again, there are schools of thought in theology — 
connected trains of view and of theological opinion, 
which for most minds q-q together. The mind that 
accepts the main positions in such a train or con- 
catenation of doctrine, usually accepts the whole. 
The mind that decidedly rejects one of the positions, 
usually is led on ultimately, by the necessities of 
mental consistency, to reject the rest. They cannot 
all be said to be fundamental or of the first im- 
portance. The confession tnight therefore content 
itself with the statement of those which are con- 
sidered primary, and proceed no further. Yet it is 
felt that a fuller declaration will more clearly ascertain 
what is meant ; will guard against the annoyance of 
mere crotchet and inconsistency ; will avert some of 
the troubles connected with incipient and half-con- 
scious heresy. At the same time, for most men the 
fuller declaration will involve no additional burden, 
because, accepting the fundamental maxims, they will 
in all probability accept the detailed statements, which 
are connected and correlative. Considerations like 
these have operated silently, but powerfully, to intro- 
duce full statements on subordinate points into con- 
fessions ; and not without reason, regard had to 
existinor circumstances of the time when the con- 
fession was formed. Yet it must be owned that, just 
in these subordinate statements of detail, a profounder 
view of the whole department, should it be attainable, 
will by and by suggest palpable changes. The con- 
fession which embodies them acquires a school stamp, 
out of which unforeseen difficulties may arise after 
considerable periods have passed away. 


Confessions, as applied to office-bearers, may be re- 
garded as designed for the protection not only of the 
Church in general, but especially of ordinary members 
against teaching which might grieve and scandalize 
them. For unquestionably the Church has a regula- 
tive power, and may take cognizance of other failures 
in reference to doctrine besides that of a lapse into 
heresy. A minister might hold nothing which the 
Church should feel called upon to visit with condemna- 
tion, merely considered as his private opinions. And 
yet he might make such a use and application of some 
of these, that the Church which would tolerate the 
opinion, will not tolerate the mischief he makes by 
means of it. The question as between the Greek and 
the Latin view of the procession of the Holy Ghost 
oueht not to have broken communion between East 
and West ; and therefore, in certain circumstances, a 
Church miofht be riofht in avoidino^ the determination 
of that controversy in its confession. In point of fact, 
were it not that the point is determined in the creeds, 
most congregations now-a-days could not tell what 
views their pastors held upon the point, so little does 
it occur in public teaching. But in days when the in- 
terest in the subject was keen, when the East generally 
held, as it holds, one view, and the West another, — when 
each party recited its peculiar form of creed in wor- 
ship, with a distinct consciousness of the special doctrine 
it involved, — the case was quite different. Suppose, 
then, that in those days a pastor in the East, becoming 
prepossessed in favour of Latin views, had begun to 
harp on the Western doctrine to his people with dog- 
matic pertinacity, ought the Church to have allowed 

268 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

him to persevere ? Practically, they might have been 
saved the trouble of deciding, for the people would 
probably have stoned the priest. But, apart from that 
contingency, the clear duty of the Church would have 
been to restrain and suppress the indiscretion. Even if 
disposed (as the Eastern Church was not) to treat the 
question as one in which forbearance was proper, the 
Church authorities would be clearly right in forbidding 
the enthusiast to harass and irritate his flock. This 
is a consideration which legitimately enters into ques- 
tions of discipline. It is not wonderful that it should 
affect the range taken in selecting materials for con- 

There can be little doubt that a larger latitude might 
be practicable, as regards minor points, if any large 
degree of wisdom in the ordinary administration of 
Christian teaching could be ordinarily reckoned on. If 
one could count upon it, that a prevailing regard to the 
spirit and main scope of the gospel should uniformly 
regulate public teaching, — and a wise consideration of 
the convictions of those instructed, — and a modest 
estimate of the probable value of personal peculiarities 
of view, — then it might be easier to make room more 
freely for such peculiarities. But, in practice, a con- 
siderable amount of onesidedness and unwisdom, of 
pertinacious and senseless propagandism, must be 
reckoned on. With this in view, the protection of the 
cono-recrations from what would vex and scandalize 
them, from what might raise irritating and bewilder- 
ing discussion, demands more care. Not merely the 
existence of some diverofinof views in the minds of 
ministers and office-bearers, but the ardent or obstinate 


inculcation of them, requires to be contemplated, when 
the question is settled as to what shall be excluded, 
what treated as admissible. Sheer crotchetiness and 
unreason in the matter of doctrinal speculation, asser- 
tions which give scandal not so much because they 
affect anything of primary importance, but because 
they seem to disregard the plain and honest sense of 
Scripture, — these are forms of mischief against which 
it is reasonable to guard. 

The churches have generally thought it well to give 
fair warning of what they expect, and feel entitled to 
exact, by calling on ministers and office-bearers to 
adopt statements by which they will abide. They 
have introduced into their creeds, on these grounds, 
statements and definitions which otherwise might 
possibly have been spared. Some material of this 
kind must probably have place. It is not easy to see 
how it can be avoided. It is not easy to represent to 
oneself how it is practically to be escaped. Nor is it 
a sufficient argument against it to say, or prove, that 
in the most perfect state of the Church, or in a conceiv- 
ably perfect state, it would not be so. That may be 
true. And the latter state is to be striven after. Yet 
the existing state of the Church is a fact to which its 
arrangements must in some degree be adapted. The 
ideally perfect state is unity ; yet all causes of division 
are not on that account to be overlooked. They exist, 
and must be recognised. So the Church may be in a 
state in which she is not yet qualified by considerate- 
ness, largeness of view, and love, to understand, tole- 
rate, and put a charitable construction on differences, 
as at another period she may attain to do. Her con- 

270 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

fession may indicate the measure of her attainment. 
It may bean imperfect attainment ; and yet It may be 
right that, such as it is, it should express itself. Cer- 
tainly this should be accompanied by a sense of defect 
and of a standard of action as yet unattained. 

There can be little doubt that, in modern times, 
ecclesiastical bodies have felt more free to embody in 
their confessions a tolerably full declaration of their 
peculiarities of view and action, and to bind this on all 
their office-bearers at least, because they are all aware 
of the existence of other communions. Let those, it 
is said or felt, who cannot accommodate themselves to 
our requirements, seek an ecclesiastical home elsewhere, 
under some ecclesiastical constitution which they may 
find more congenial. The notion Is silently accepted, 
that churches are societies so arranged, that particular 
phases or types of Christian doctrine in which men are 
agreed may be cultivated and cherished, each in its 
own ecclesiastical compartment, on the understanding 
that for other types of view there are other churches. 
Now it would certainly be absurd to overlook the fact 
that there is such a variety of churches, or to deny 
that practically it settles with considerable convenience 
a number of problems, and so settles them as to leave 
no room for an appeal. I have never been able to see, 
however, that any church Is at liberty to proceed in 
this matter on any principles but those which apply to 
the universal Church, or to accept any rule or mode of 
action which might not be adopted by the universal 
Church were It placed in the same circumstances. 
This does not Imply that each church Is to throw 
down its walls to admit all the others ; but simply that 


the point of view of the universal Church ought to be 
accepted as the fundamental one. I admit that there 
are great difficulties in the way of practically applying 
such a rule. I am disposed to think, however, that 
they are difficulties which ought to be faced. If on 
special grounds it is held right to impose terms which 
the Catholic Church of Christ, as such, would not be 
warranted in imposing, this ought at least to be taken 
as marking an imperfection, indicating a barrier not 
yet surmounted in the way to the attainment of a more 
perfect state. 

The argument has proceeded on the assumption 
that creeds are the utterance of the living, present 
Church. The revealed teachino- which the Church 
receives, and on which she lives, she reproduces in 
her creed. Thus surely it ought to be. The 
Church has no right to speak, except out of present 
and actual conviction. The authority of Revelation 
is binding, but not that of any past age of the 
Church's own history. Only those who assert the 
existence of an infallible earthly authority, as inter- 
preter of Scripture and judge of controversies, can 
dispute this. But then, as a matter of fact, creeds 
are commonly inherited. This age would be poorly 
provided unless the past furnished a supply. The 
ancient creeds have lasted since the third, fourth, or 
fifth centuries. The confessions are mostly of the 
Reformation age, or of the age which followed. It 
is natural, from a certain point of view, to look upon 
this circumstance with suspicion. Here is proof, it 
may be said, that the creeds either beget or express 
a slavish sequacious spirit, which makes the words of 

272 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

dead men the rule and standard of its thinkine. 
Whether they beget it or express it, they are aHke 
objectionable. You profess, it may be said, to believe 
in Scripture only as the binding rule ; you repudiate 
the belief in the infallibility of human creeds. And 
yet you treat them as if it were inconceivable that 
you should actually find them fallible. The teaching 
and experience of hundreds of years does not enable 
you to find a single particular in which they ought to 
be altered, or are capable of being improved ! Is 
this because their fallible authors made them perfect ? 
Or is it because you count it enough to profess 
Protestant principles, and shrink from applying them ? 
I reply by affirming, in the first place, that there 
is reason for endeavouring, if it be possible, to utter 
the present faith so as to bring out the consent of 
past ages wqth our own. For while we are all falljble, 
and subject to the sway of time, even in our modes 
of apprehending and expressing truth eternal, yet 
there is a durable identity in the faith of believers. 
All is not in perpetual flux. The admonition to 
seek the truth implies that it may be found, and that 
we may know that we have found it.^ An enlightened 
and established believer remains to the end of his 
days a learner. He is willing to believe that some 
measure of mistake, which further progress can correct, 
may cleave in many respects to the convictions he 
has formed, even his convictions on the most important 
questions. Yet he is quite sure that much of what 
he knows and believes never can be swept away. 
On points less certain and less- important he may 

1 Note G. 


have much to correct ; and even with respect to the 
more certain and settled truths, some fresh adjust- 
ment of his thoughts may prove to be called for. 
But in the main, these last are his permanent acqui- 
sition, his fixed possession. It is no good sign of 
any man that he ceases to learn ; but neither is it a 
good sign of any man that he fluctuates on all points 
to the last, and never reaches settled convictions. So 
also with the Church, or with any branch of the 
Church, in which the faith of the gospel dwells with 
power. There is truth attained which abides, though 
all be not truth which the Church in any one age 
may be disposed to take for truth. There is a 
consent which echoes from age to age, as well as 
from man to man ; and the testimony of the Church 
is not merely the consent of the Church in one age, 
but also of the Church in sundry ages. It is well to 
feel this, and to make it felt, that believers, with 
whatever infirmities, drawing from one fountain of 
knowledge, and sitting at the feet of one teacher, have 
been learning the same lessons. It is well to make 
it felt, that the truth is not a fashion of our minds, 
but durable and perennial, and receives the same 
testimony from men in different times. All this is 
well, if it be possible ; and for the reasons just given, 
it ought to be possible. Therefore we are glad to 
recognise in the early creeds the hand of God leading 
the Church to modes of utterance which we can 
take up and affirm. We rejoice in the harmony of 
the Reformation confessions, and we feel no cause to 
be ashamed of the strength and symmetry of that 

which we receive. But with all this, it must be 


274 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

affirmed unequivocally, that all these exist subject to 
correction. This concession must a mere idle 
flourish ; it must exist in the Church as a living, 
practical, powerful principle. Loyalty to God's 
supreme word requires it ; and where it is withdrawn 
or denied, the defence of creeds, on Protestant 
principles, becomes impossible. 

Romanists may maintain the immutable authority 
of every utterance of the collective Church, or of its 
earthly head. They may do so consistently, so far, 
since they hold the Church to be infallible. We 
who deny the principle, reject also the inference. 
We assert not the right only, but the duty, of the 
Church, and every branch of it, to hold confessions 
and subordinate standards subject to correction. For 
as the inspired teaching is before the Church,^ so the 
Church is before the confession. Therefore, if a case 
arise which proves to be not sufficiently provided for 
in the confession, we may add to it ; and if we find 
Scripture so requiring, we may abridge or modify it ; 
or we may take another in its room, if we find that 
likely to be more for edification. 

This is generally admitted by Protestants ; and the 
defence of creeds and confessions in Protestant 
churches is usually combined with that admission, or 
rather, is based upon it. It is the practice rather 
than the theory which admits of question in this 
respect ; for opponents of creeds have some colour 
for asserting that no due effect is given in practice to 
what is admitted in theory. The inherited creeds, it is 
said, are retained ; no effective method of revising them 

1 Note H. '*' 


exists. The consent of generations gives them a 
prestige on account of which no one will venture to 
question their authority. Those who feel only some 
dissatisfaction with their adaptation to present circum- 
stances are content to let them alone, rather than 
encounter the responsibilities and face the questions 
which revision might entail. Those who see cause to 
entertain more serious objections are disabled morally, 
by the fact that subscription imposes on them an obliga- 
tion to resign their positions, and so their right to influ- 
ence a decision. At all events, a call for revision from 
those who object to material parts of the confessional 
teaching, tends always to rally on the old lines those 
who in general agree with it. They sink the opinions 
which might have led them to seek readjustment of 
details, in order that they may take the ground most 
convenient for fighting out the larger question. Thus 
the inherited confession comes to be treated as prac- 
tically unalterable and irremovable, until perhaps a 
recoil takes place, and the Church, or a party in it too 
powerful to be controlled, breaks loose from it alto- 
gether. All this is unedifying and indefensible. Such 
is the view given of the practical operation of our 
creed system. 

There is a measure of truth in it. In churches 
in which confessional writings are maintained and 
valued, while the right to revise is asserted, there is 
commonly great scrupulosity about the use of it. 
Tenderness and reverence are due to documents like 
these ; and tenderness and reverence are due to the 
feelings with which they are regarded, on account of 
the interests with which they are connected, and the 

276 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

truths which they have been a mouthpiece to express. 
Instead of making difficulties, multiplying scruples, 
and readily entertaining projects for change, men are 
rather disposed to dwell on the advantages enjoyed 
in virtue of the existing system. And this, if only it 
is not carried so far as to lead us to forget more 
primary obligations, is the wiser and better temper. 
For it is not a reasonable assumption to start with, 
that the confession of a church should need much or 
frequent alteration. If it does, either the confession 
has been ill planned at the outset, — has been a failure 
as regards the proper qualities of this kind of per- 
formance, — or the church for which it is intended 
must be more than ordinarily unstable in its belief 
Probably it would be better to be without any con- 
fessions, than to be always rebuilding them. These 
documents ought not to contain problematical matter, 
but rather that which is believed to be plentifully 
proved and surely fixed : they ought, therefore, to be 
so related to the central and durable convictions of 
the Church as to be likely to sustain the impression 
of the stability of Scripture teaching. Usually the 
circumstances of their origin secure in a good mea- 
sure that they fulfil this condition. 

Still it cannot be assumed that they have actually 
attained this character, especially when they are of 
some length and minuteness ; and therefore it might 
be desirable to secure that, on any fair call, the 
Church's attention should be directed to any part of 
the confession supposed to require revision, not as 
a singular and revolutionary step, but as something 
belonging to her ordinary and recognised responsibili- 

Lect. VI.] NOT IMMUTABLE. 277 

ties. At present, any proposal to reconsider the con- 
fession would be felt in most of the Presbyterian 
churches as a revolutionary proposal, opening the 
way to unimaginable possibilities. Such a feeling 
is not consistent with the true position in which 
creeds and confessions ought to stand, nor with a 
right conception of the relation of the Church to her 
doctrinal teaching generally. And it is attended with 
danger ; for, supposing a revision to become ultimately 
inevitable, it is apt to take the character of a revolu- 
tionary movement, which bursts through barriers long 
maintained, and effects a sweeping change. Regular 
provision for considering changes that might be pro- 
posed, would not, in all likelihood, lead to frequent 
actual changes. It would not do so in any case in 
which a branch of the Church possesses a wisely drawn 
confession to begin with, and continues to adhere in 
the main to the type of doctrine which it embodies. 
But in giving effect to modifications which might be 
generally agreed upon as clear improvements, and in 
ensuring deliberate consideration of suggestions, it 
would operate as a conservative arrangement. It 
would ease the pressure of the feeling, which consti- 
tutes half our danger, that men are held in the grasp 
of ancient formulas, received merely because they are 
ancient, from whose determinations, even of the smallest 
points, there is no real appeal. It would give to the 
confession an added weight and authority, as being 
more manifestly expressive of the actual and living 
mind of the Church. Finally, it would make it plain 
that confessions, as mere human compositions, are kept 
in their own place, and are not allowed to assum.e an 

278 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

immutability injurious to the sole authority of the 
word of God.^ 

Changes on an extant confession which is in autho- 
rity may be desired on various grounds, and the 
changes proposed may be of different kinds. New 
determinations may be thought needful to be intro- 
duced, on the ground of errors arising which are not 
sufficiently provided for ; or articles may be amended, 
to make them more scriptural or more clear ; or 
articles may be wholly dismissed, on the ground that 
they have been ascertained to be not well grounded in 
the Scriptures. In all such cases the material merits 
are involved, and they shall not further occupy our 
attention. But it may be proposed simply to abridge, 
on the ground that, however scriptural the articles 
to be omitted may be, they are not fitly introduced 
into a confession ; that the whole document is larger 
than churches are entitled to use, and makes state- 
ments in more detail than is suitable in formularies 
of this kind. At present this is one of the main points 
urged with respect to confessions and articles. The 
demand for a briefer creed may very likely receive an 
impulse in many cases from the objections entertained, 
upon the merits, to particular articles of the existing 
creed. But the argument is often urged, apart from 
those objections, on the ground of the mere unwarrant- 
ableness of burdening the access to office in the church 
with an obligation to make such an extensive profes- 
sion of belief in articles drawn up by men. The ques- 
tion thus raised is a perfectly fair one, but frank and 
unembarrassed consideration is not easily procured for 

^ Note I. 

Lect. VI.] TWO USES. 279 

it. Nor is this surprising. If the point were urged 
by those only who desire the great characteristic 
features of the faith of the churches to remain, and to 
be protected by the best possible kind of confession, 
an unprejudiced hearing would more readily be ac- 
corded. But since those also are in the field who 
have more serious objections in reserve, and contem- 
plate more sweeping changes, the point before us is 
naturally treated as only the advanced guard of an 
invading enemy. Yet it is certainly entitled to be 
considered and judged upon its own merits. 

It has already been remarked, that the Reformation 
confessions were intended for, or were applied to, two 
purposes. They were intended, in the first place, to 
announce what was held for truth with a general con- 
sent in each of the churches, and so to clear away all 
doubt as to the actual teaching. They were intended, 
in the next place, or were applied, to ascertain that 
candidates for office, especially for the ministry, held 
views sufficiently accordant with those of the Church 
to justify their being invested with office power. 
There is nothing unnatural in the same document 
being used for both these purposes. It may seem 
very fit that the statement which embodies the 
Church's testimony should be adopted by all who 
are to act as guides in the Church. An indisposition 
to make distinctions, and to provide for the two ob- 
jects, as two, must indeed be expected. Minds that 
are strongly interested in doctrine always desire to 
give practical expression to the sense which they 
cherish of its importance. If ten statements have 
been embodied in a church's testimony, it will seem 

28o CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

to such minds to be something Hke advertising the 
unimportance of half of them, to make five, only, terms 
of office. Many will always regard such a distinction 
as invidious and unsafe. Still it does not follow that 
the same document must always equally well serve 
both purposes, or that whatever is fit for the one 
purpose must be fit also for the other.^ The Church 
may be prepared to give the weight of its collective 
voice and influence in favour of a larger array of doc- 
trinal statement, because in point of fact the whole of 
it has gained her general suffrage. It will naturally 
be desired that this extensive consent should continue. 
But the best, the safest, the most warrantable way of 
promoting that object, may quite conceivably be, to 
stand upon a more moderate statement as constituting 
the binding terms of office, and to trust for the rest 
to the influence of accepted truth in regulating the 
cast of a man's whole thinking, and also to the mould- 
ing influence of the cast of thought and the tone of 
piety prevailing in the body. Be all this as it may, 
no adequate discussion has been given to the question. 
Supposing a right in the Church to exact something 
as a condition of admission to office, how much is she 
justified in exacting ? It has been superseded, for the 
most part, by the general question of the competency 
of creeds ; as if enough were done when it had once 
been proved that the Church is entitled, collectively 
and in some permanent form, to give witness for what 
she judges to be divine truth.^ 

I have already indicated my conviction that the 
question now referred to cannot be disposed of by 

i Note J. * Note K. 


general and theoretical considerations alone. It can 
be settled only by a discussion of the material merits 
of each confession, and of the range which it covers. 
Discussion of this order is not in view in these Lec- 
tures. But it is useful to observe that, from the 
nature of the case, there will always probably be room 
for some difference of opinion as to the proper border 
line, even among those who are generally agreed on 
the previous and more important question as to the 
scheme of doctrine which the Scriptures authorize. 
This is a consideration which may reasonably assuage 
the spirit of impatience which is apt to arise on both 
sides, when questions are pressed with reference to 
confessions. Nothing, indeed, exerts more influence 
in the way of disposing sober-minded men to be 
exceeding slow to stir such questions, than the sense, 
the just sense, of the difficulty of prescribing the new 
limits, and agreeing upon them as scriptural, defen- 
sible, and serviceable. 

Yet we shall not be always able to escape questions 
because the solution of them involves difficulties. If 
the question now before us shall prove to be one 
which presses for fresh examination, I am disposed to 
think that it will prove to be of importance to keep 
separate and prominent the case of fundamentals 
already dwelt upon, with heresies as the correlative 
on the negative side. I do not propound this as 
sufficient to remove the difficulties. It is not so easy 
to agree precisely as to which are the fundamentals 
and which the heresies. And if it were agreed upon 
precisely, it is not to be assumed, as I have stated 
already, that confessions can or ought to be confined 

282 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

to just these points. But yet the citadel of symbols, 
considered as subordinate standards, will be found to 
lie in this quarter. There are fundamentals of Chris- 
tian doctrine; and there are heresies — forms of doctrine 
which, professing to build on Christian Revelation, 
and appropriating its words, yet subvert the funda- 
mentals. That will never be doubted by earnest 
Christians ; nor will they fail to give effect to it in 
some shape when their attention is drawn to it. Now 
if such points are to be efficiently provided for in sym- 
bolical books, they must be provided for in precise 
and definite forms of expression. It is at this point 
that confessions assume those characteristic features 
of trenchant inclusion and exclusion, at which the 
ordinary objections are levelled which are brought 
against them. Those features or characteristics must 
be present, if we are to have confessions worth the 
having. Once that necessity is clearly accepted, the 
questions that remain, though they may be difficult, 
ought not to produce any fatal misunderstanding — 
ought not to be unsusceptible of a reasonable adjust- 

In the Presbyterian churches, more than one class 
of office-bearers has to be kept in view, and the 
practical relation of each to the existing confession 
must be differently estimated. Ministers, of course, 
and candidates for the ministry, are generally led to 
a more full and exact study of doctrine, and of the 
scope and bearing of the confession, than other office- 
bearers. It might be expected, perhaps, that diffi- 
culty would more frequently arise among them. I am 
not by any means sure that this is the case, at least if 


the question be of difficulties removable by any re- 
vision that is in the least likely to commend itself to 
the oreneral mind and feelino- of the Church. A cer- 

o o 

tain number of men are stumbled and repelled by 
determinations on minor points which they cannot 
accept. Some more are repelled, probably, by the 
mere impression of having to deal with so large a 
range of points, and to make themselves formally re- 
sponsible on them all. It strikes them as unreason- 
able and wrong. But in much the larger number of 
cases, the generally homogeneous character of the 
confession, as representing one coherent view of 
Scripture teaching, tells, in the end, in the way of 
removing difficulty. As the examination proceeds, 
the impression grows, that if some main positions can 
be cordially and thoroughly accepted, scruples about 
the rest become artificial and untenable. There re- 
main, of course, cases in which able and conscientious 
men are led, as the result of their studies, to adopt 
alternatives on leading questions of theology different 
from those which the confession holds forth. But 
then, usually, the opposition to the teaching of the 
confession becomes so extensive and thorough, that 
revolution, not retrenchment, alone would meet the 

With elders and deacons it is different. In Scotland, 
we have never been without elders and deacons of very 
considerable theological culture. Still the class, and 
not the exceptional individuals, are to be kept in view. 
As a class, these office-bearers are not called to the 
same kind of study of Christian doctrine which can- 
didates for the ministry must undertake ; their duties 

284 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

cannot be said to require it ; their opportunities ordi- 
narily do not admit of it. It often happens that men, 
who are otherwise fit for office, feel that particular 
determinations of the confession do not strike them as 
scriptural, or as falling in easily with the impressions 
they have been led to form. Others shrink from the 
mere extent of matter and variety of topics. In this 
way, a growing number of valuable men are lost to the 
service of the Church, and are harmed by finding no 
proper exercise for their gifts. Moreover, when no 
objection is made or felt, that sometimes proceeds 
from the fact that the confession, as too arduous for 
detailed examination, is taken en bloc, on the strength 
of its general character, — a compromise which no one 
will reorard as desirable.^ 

The subject of this Lecture has been treated under 
a strong sense of the practical necessity of creeds and 
confessions, combined with a strong impression of the 
danger to which the defence of them will be exposed, 
unless it is conducted with a resolute readiness to keep 
them in their place as human compositions, and to 
meet frankly every fair call to reconsider the form and 
measure which their authors have given to them. It 
may appear, that since so much has been said of re- 
vision, no very strong impression of the difficulties or 
the dangers attendant on that enterprise can exist in 
the writer s mind. This idea, if it is entertained, is 
erroneous. I should find it difficult to express the 
sense which I entertain both of the difficulties and 
the dangers, mainly on account of considerations which 
shall be mentioned presently. I should find it difficult 

1 Note L. 


to convey the importance which I attach, I do not say- 
to retaining the faith of the divine truth, which is not 
here in question, but to a wise stedfastness in refusing 
to vary the confessional expression of it, except for 
o-rave causes, and in the calmest and most deliberate 
manner. But then I am convinced that all the 
dangers and the difficulties are greatly aggravated by 
the formation of a habit of church life to which the 
idea of revision becomes something strange, monstrous, 
almost sacrilegious. I am convinced that, to familiarize 
our minds with the topic, is the true way to diminish 
the dangers of it. To look upon it habitually as a 
task that may at any time become incumbent, consist- 
ing in the reconsideration of some point or points of 
our standard of doctrinal qualification for office, in 
connection with the maintenance of the divine un- 
changeable faith, — this is much more likely than the 
opposite habit, to avert inconsiderate changes, and the 
instability from which they spring. 

For the most serious source of apprehension in con- 
nection with this subject is suggested by experience. 
There has been every variety of measure and manner, 
of sobriety and of the reverse, in the assertion of doc- 
trine, and the embodiment of it in symbolical writings. 
But one thing cannot be doubted. A high Christian 
enthusiasm has usually been connected with strong 
and decided affirmation of doctrine, and with a dis- 
position to speak it out ever more fully. That temper 
has been venturesome to speak, even as it has been 
venturesome to do ; as little fearing to declare God's 
word in human speech, as to embody His will in 
human acts. It has not been disposed, for the most 

286 CREEDS. [Lect. VI. 

part, to moderate, or withdraw, or pare down doctrinal 
statements, unless indeed when it had to denounce 
them as materially erroneous, and to set against them 
what it judged true and sound. On the other hand, 
when a tendency has been shown to moderate and 
lower the Church's utterance, to reduce the number of 
its articles, or shape them in less peremptory words, 
that has proved to be due, not always, but too often, 
to just the reverse of Christian enthusiasm or earnest- 
ness — to a cold rationalistic temper, or to the influence 
of human prejudice and human insubordination. If 
other, more Christian, motives and influences have 
been at work, too often they have been merged in a 
larger stream of those just described, and have served 
only to give character and credit to them. One 
mourns, seeing the mischief done by indefensible 
creeds, that no fitter hands proved ready to readjust 
them, and that it was left to semi-Christian and to un- 
christian feeling to do, in their own way, what Chris- 
tian feeling should have done in its way. One laments 
that the Lutheran creeds, for instance, utterly indefen- 
sible as documents intended for creed purposes, should 
have been upheld and kept standing till they simply 
became a mockery, instead of being timeously taken 
in hand for reconsideration by Christian zeal and dis- 
cretion.^ But clearly all this admonishes us what kind 
of forces (not those we wish for) are apt to be at 
work in the revision of creeds. No Protestant can shut 
out the question whether some alteration may not be 
desirable or incumbent. But would that the ques- 
tion might be faced, when it must be faced, with a 

1 Note M. 

Lect. VI.] CHRIST WITH US. 287 

great power of Christian life — with a true Christian 
enthusiasm bringing forth its proper fruits, — an en- 
thusiasm for Christian truth combined with enthusiasm 
for Scripture simpHcity and for Christian love. 

The work of the Church's Head is always perfect, 
but the work of His Church and people is always 
mixed. At the best it is mixed, and sometimes the 
mixture of alien elements is great and disastrous. 
There are divine gifts in the Church's hands ; but as 
she lifts them up in thanksgiving to God, or in ministry 
to men, they always take some stain from the hands 
which hold them. Nor does the use of them ever 
correspond perfectly with the Lord's will. 

Yet Christ has always had a Church on the earth, 
and He has never forsaken it. Through the whole 
train of works and functions in which the Church has 
been engaged, amid all the marks of human shallow- 
ness, waywardness, and error, we may yet trace the 
tokens of One who blesses. So, though we may not 
overlook the Church's failings, we may not deny the 
Lord's gifts. We must not deny them in His own 
hands ; neither may we deny them in the hands of 
those on earth whom He has enabled to follow and to 
serve Him. 

Such are some of the thoughts which occur in clos- 
ing a survey of the questions which gather about the 
delivery and development of Christian doctrine. 



Note A.— Page 6. 

Aw 01) 'ye'^paiTTai ravTa, (fiacrlv, Kol w? a'ypd<f)OV<; Ta<; (f)Ci}va<; 
€K^a\Xofiev. 'AWa koI tovto ttoXlv TTpo(pa(T[<i icrrtv avToi^ 
avalcT'^vvTO^. El yap eK/SXijTea vofiit^ovat ra yu.?; yeypafifieva, 
SiA Tt TMU irepl "Apeiov i^ d<ypd<pQ)v eTTLVorjcravrav roaovTOv 
pTjfjiaTLOiv avp(f)eTov, to, e^ ovk ovtcov, kol to, ovk rjv o Tio<i irplv 
yewTjOfj' KoX, rjv iroTe ots ovk rjv koI, TpeTrro? eVri' koI, apprj- 
To? Kai dopaTo^ 6 IlaTrjp tw Tlu)' Kal, 6 Tt'09 ovk olSev ovSe 
TTjV eavTOv ovalav koI oaa ev Tjj yeXolfp koL daejSei ©a\ia 
eavTOv (j)pov6i)v i^rjixeaev "Apei,o<; ovk dvTeiprjKaaiv, dXkd koX 
fxaXkov v'TTep avTwv dyoovit^ovTat,, koX Sid TavTa 7rpo9 Tov'i ira- 
Tepa<i eavTOiV Sia/jid'^ovTac. ''Ek 7rola<; Se rpa(j)f]'i kol avTol 
€vpovT€^ TO dyivrjTOv, Kal to ovalav ovofxa, Kal, Tpel<i elcriv 
v7roaTda6L<i, Kal, ovk eaTtv d\r)6ivo<; 0eo? 6 XpiaTO<;, Kal, et? 
ecTTt T(t)V €KaTov irpo^dToav, Kal, rj fxev ao(f)La tov ©eov dyevvrjTO'i 
Kav dvapj(0'^ eaTi, irdKkal he elatv al KTiadelcrat. Svvdfjiei'i, wv 
fica iaTlv Xpi,aT0<; ; 'iJ 7rfo)9 ev Tot<; Xeyo/jievoL<i ^EyKaivioi<i, 
dypd(f)OL'i 'x^prjcrdfievoL Xe^eaiv 01 irepl 'AKdKiov Kal EvaejBlov, 
Kal elirovTe'i ovataq re Kal Swdfieo)';, Kal ^ov\rj<;, Kal 86^'r]<i 
airapaXkaKTOv euKova tov jrpwTOTOKOv Trjq KTLaeo)<;, yoyyv^ovat 
KaTa TOiv JJaTepoiv, co? dypdcfxov avTcov fjivrj^ovevadvTwv ; "ESet 
yap avTov<i i) Kad' eavTOiv yoyyv^ecv, rj /xr]Sev tou9 TlaTepa^ 
aiTidaOai — Athan. Dc Syjiodis, § 2,6. 

Note B. — Page 8. 

' Non enim per alios, dispositionem salutis nostrae cog- 
novlmus, quam per eos, per quos evangelium pervenit ad 
nos ; quod quidem tunc praeconaverunt, postea vero per Dei 
voluntatem in Scripturis nobis tradiderunt, fundamentum et 

292 NOTES. [Lect. I. 

columnam fidei nostrae. Nee enim fas est dicere, quoniam 
ante praedicaverunt quam perfectam haberent agnitionem 
sicut quidam audent dicere, gloriantes emendatores se esse 
apostolorum. . . . Quum enim ex Scripturis arguuntur 
in accusationem convertuntur ipsarum Scripturarum, quasi 
non recte habeant, neque sint ex auctoritate, et quia varie 
sint dictae, et quia non possit ex his inveniri Veritas ab 
his qui nesciant traditionem. Non enim per Hteras traditam 
illam sed per vivam vocem. . . . Quum autem ad eam 
iterum traditionem, quae est ab apostolis, quae per succes- 
siones presbyterorum in ecclesiis custoditur, provocamus eos : 
adversantur traditioni, dicentes se non solum presbyteris, sed 
etiam apostoHs exsistentes sapientiores, sinceram invenisse 
veritatem. . . . Traditionem itaque apostolorum in toto 
mundo manifestatam in omni ecclesia adest respicere omni- 
bus qui vera velint videre, et habemus annumerare eos 
qui ab apostolis instituti sint episcopi in ecclesiis, et suc- 
cessores eorum usque ad nos, qui nihil tale docuerunt neque 
cognoverunt quale ab his deliratur. Etenim si recondita 
mysteria scissent apostoli, quae seorsim et latenter ab reliquis 
perfectos docebant, his vel maxime traderent ea quibus etiam 
ipsas ecclesias committebant. . . . Sed quoniam valde 
longum est in hoc tali volumine omnium ecclesiarum enu- 
merare successiones ; maximae et antiquissiijiae et omnibus 
cognitae, a gloriosissimis duobus apostolis Petro et Paulo 
Romae fundatae et constitutae ecclesiae, eam quam habet 
ab apostolis traditionem, et annuntiatam hominibus fidem, 
per successiones episcoporum pervenientem usque ad nos in- 
dicantes, confundimus omnes eos, qui quoque modo. . . . 
praeterquam oportet colligunt. Ad hanc enim ecclesiam 
propter potentiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem 
convenire ecclesiam, hoc est eos qui sunt undique fideles, 
in qua semper ab his, qui sunt undique, conservata est 
ea quae est ab apostolis traditio. . . . (Here follows notice 
of the Roman succession, and adduction of authority of 
Polycarp and the church of Smyrna.) . . . Tantae igitur 
ostensiones quum sint, non oportet adhuc quaerere apud 
alios veritatem, quam facile est ab ecclesia sumere ; quum 
apostoli, quasi in depositorium dives, plenissime in eam 

Lect. I.] NOTE B. 293 

contulerint omnia quae sunt veritatis. . . . Ante Valentinum 
enim non fuerunt qui sunt a Valentino, neque ante Mar- 
cionem qui sunt a Marcione ; neque omnino erant reliqui 
sensus maligni quos supra enumeravimus, antequam initia- 
tores et inventores perversitatis eorum fierent. . . . Tradi- 
tione igitur, quae est ab apostolis, sic se habente in ecclesia, 
et permanente apud nos, revertamur ad earn, quae est ex 
Scripturis ostensionem eorum qui evangelium conscripserunt 
apostolorum.' — IREN. Contra Haer. iii. c. 1-4. So much is 
quoted, to show the connection of the statements with the 
general argument. 

Tertullian has caught sight more fully of the capabilities 
of this mode of pleading, and erects it into a universal 
extinguisher of heretical argument : — 

' Scripturas obtendunt et hac sua audacia statim quosdam 
movent. . . . Hunc igitur potissimum gradum obstruimus 
non admittendi eos ad ullam de Scripturis disputationem. 
Si hae sunt illae vires eorum, uti eas habere possint, dispici 
debet cui competat possessio Scripturarum ne is admittatur 
ad eas cui nullo modo competit. . , . Ergo non ad Scrip- 
turas provocandum. . . . Ordo rerum desiderabat illud 
prius proponi quod nunc solum disputandum est : quibus 
competat fides ipsa, cujus sint Scripturae, a quo, et per quos, 
et quando, et quibus, sit tradita disciplina qua fiunt Christiani. 
Ubi enim apparuerit veritatem disciplinae et fidei Chris- 
tianae, illic erit Veritas Scripturarum et expositionum et 
omnium traditionum Christianarum.' Accordingly, having 
described the founding of churches by the apostles, — * Hinc 
igitur dirigimus praescriptioncm, si dominus Christus Jesus 
apostolos misit ad praedicandum, alios non esse recipiendos 
praedicatores quam Christus instituit, quia nee alius patrem 
novit nisi filius et cui filius revelavit, nee aliis videtur 
revelasse filius quam apostolis quos misit ad praedicandum, 
utique quod illis revelavit. Quid autem praedicaverint, 
id est, quid illis Christus revelaverit, et hie pj-aescribavi non 
aliter probari debere, nisi per easdem eeclesias quas ipsi 
apostoli condiderunt, ipsi eis praedicando tum viva, quod 
aiunt, voce, quam per epistolas postea. Si haec ita sunt, 
constat perinde omnem doctrinam quae cum illis ecclesiis 



[Lect. I. 

apostolicis matricibus et originalibus fidei conspiret veritati 
deputandam . . , omnem vero doctrinam de mendacio 
praejudicandam quae sapiat contra veritatem ecclesiarum et 
apostolorum Christi et Dei. ... Si haec ita se habent, 
ut Veritas nobis adjudicetur, quicunque in ea regula incedi- 
mus, quam ecclesia ab apostolis, apostoli a Christo, Christus 
a Deo tradidit, constat ratio propositi nostri, definientis non 
esse admittendos haereticos ad ineundam de Scripturis pro- 
vocationem, quos sine Scripturis probamus ad Scripturas 
non pertinere. Si enim haeretici sunt Christiani esse non 
possunt. . . . Ita non Christiani nullum jus capiunt Chris- 
tianarum literarum, ad quos merito dicendum est : Qui estis .'' 
quid in meo agitis, non mei .'' quo denique, Marcion, jure 
silvam meam caedis .'' qua licentia, Valentine, fontes meos 
transvertis .'* qua potestate, Apelles, limites meos commores .-* 
Mea est possessio. Quid hie ceteri .-'' — Tert. De Praescript. 
Haeret. c. xv.-xxxvii. 

Note C. — Page io. 

Quae supra sunt non verbo docentur sed spiritu revelantur. 
Verum quod sermo non expHcat, consideratio quaerat, oratio 
expetat, mercatur vita, puritas assequatur. — Bernard, De 
Considerat. v. 3. Fides ambiguum non habet ; aut si habet, 
fides non est, sed opinio. Quid igitur distat ab intellectu } 
Nempe quod etsi non habet incertum non magis quam 
intellectus, habet tamen involucrum, quod non intellectus. 
Denique quod intellexisti, non est de eo quod ultra quaeras ; 
aut si est non intellexisti. Nil autem malumus scire, quam 
quae fide jam scimus. — Ibid. Magister Petrus in libris suis 
profanas vocum novitates inducit et sensuum, disputans de 
fide contra fidem, verbis legis legem impugnat. Nihil videt 
per speculum et in aenigmate, sed facie ad faciem omnia 
intuetur, ambulans in magnis et mirabilibus super se. — Ep. 

Lect. I.] NOTE E. 295 

Note D. — Page i i. 

For the arrangements in the matter of theological study, 
reference may be made to Tholuck, Acadein. Leben des 
siebi^eJinten JaJirhindcrts, i. p. 104. It seems needless to 
occupy space with citations from the writings of the Reformers 
in illustration of the statement made in the text. 

' Fidei symbolum in scriptis potius quam animis esse coepit, 
et tot pane erant fides, quot homines ; creverunt articuli 
sed decrevit sinceritas, efferbuit contentio, refrixit caritas. 
Doctrina Christi quae prius nesciebat Koyopjuyjav, coepit a 
philosophiae praesidiis pendere. Hie primus erat gradus 
ecclesiae ad deteriora prolabentis. Tandem res deducta est ad 
sophisticas contentiones, articulorum myriades proruperunt.' 
— Erasm. Praefat. in Hilar. 

Note E. — Page 17. 

In the TJieologica Dogmata, vol. ii. (where he takes up the 
topic De Trinitate), Petavius gave a very frank account of 
the sentiment of the Ante-Nicene Fathers on some points 
connected with the doctrine of the Trinity, characterizing the 
teaching of a considerable number of them as ' de Trinitate 
sententiae ab catholica regula, saltem loquendi usu, discre- 
pantes.' The implication appeared to be, that even in the doc- 
trine of the Trinity points were not at first de fide, which after- 
wards became such by the decision of the Church. Nor was it 
easy to see how, according to the representation of Petavius, 
this decision could be based on an express unambiguous 
tradition. Rather it would seem to be a decision of a point 
on which tradition varied. This would be substantially a 
development in Newman's sense. Petavius was strenuously 
attacked by Bull and other members of Protestant churches, 
as having betrayed a fundamental doctrine by this {as they 
maintained) uncalled-for concession ; and the motive imputed 
was a desire to exalt the authority of the Church, even at 
the expense of the orthodoxy of the Fathers. Besides this, 

296 NOTES. [Lect I. 

serious dissatisfaction was felt by many members of his own 
Church, who conceived it to be a dangerous thing to dis- 
integrate and break down the historical tradition in behalf of 
so fundamental an article. Nor could it add to his comfort 
that the latitudinarian Arminians (as Curcellaeus) gladly laid 
hold of his admission, and pleaded it as proof of the latitude 
which obtained in the early Church. Petavius accordingly 
felt himself constrained to modify his representation, and for 
that purpose prefixed an explanatory preface to the Treatise 
De Trinitate, in which he assuages the impression his former 
statement had produced, and argues that those same Fathers, 
on a broad view of their whole teaching, sustain the Church's 
doctrine on the important head in question. 

Newman, in his earlier writings, followed Bull in referring 
with grave censure to the statement of Petavius. When he 
published his work on Development, he altered his view, and 
maintained that a divergence ought to be recognised, at least 
on one point. See Note I to Lecture V. 

Note F. — Page i8. 

Was ist also Tradition "^ ' Der Eigenthiimliche in der Kirche 
vorhandene und durch die kirchliche Erziehung sich fort- 
pflanzende christliche Sinn, der jedoch nicht ohne seinen 
Inhalt zu denken ist, der sich vielmehr an seine und durch 
seinen Inhalt gebildet hat, so dass er ein erfiillter Sinn zu 
nennen ist. Die Tradition ist das fortwahrend in den Herzen 
der Glaubigen lebendes Wort. Diesem Sinne, als Gesammt- 
sinne ist die Auslegung der heiligen Schrift anvertraut : die 
durch denselbenausgesprocheneerklarung in den bestrittenen 
Gegenstiinde ist das urtheil der Kirche, und die Kirche darum 
Richterin in den Angelegenheiten des Glaubens (judex 
controversiarum). Die Tradition im objectiven Sinne ist in 
der in ausserlichen historischen Zeugnissen vorliegende 
Gesammtglaube der Kirche durch all Jahrhunderte hin- 
durch. In diesem sinne wird gewohnlich die Tradition die 
Norm, die Richtschnur der Schrifterklarung, die Glaubens- 
regel genannt.' — MoEllLER, Symbolik, p. 357, 6th ed., Mainz 

Lect. I.] NOTE F. 297 

Evidently here the real fountain of decisions is the ' Sinn,' 
which interprets and decides as by a sacred instinct, and 
which therefore can from time to time evolve that which was 
never expressly delivered to it by any tradition, but which 
is now discerned to pertain to the completeness or security 
of the Christian faith. Accordingly, in another passage, p. 
369 :— 

' Nachdem nun aber das gottliche Wort menschlicher 
Glaube geworden war, musste es auch in alle rein mensch- 
lichen Schicksale eingehen. Es musste fortwahrend von 
den menschlichen Geisteskraften auf und mit denselben 
angenommen werden : das Bewahren und Wiedergeben des- 
selben war gleichfalls an menschliche Weise gebunden.' 
This is said to be visible enough in the Scriptures, in the 
Gospels, and still more in the Epistles, with the effect of 
varying greatly the form of the original truth. ' Es blieb 
immerhin noch das ursprungliche, und doch auch nicht : es 
war sich selbst gleich dem Wesen nach, von sich verschieden 
riicksichtlich der Form.' 

' Anders konnte es nie werden, auch nach dem Tode der 
Apostel. ... In dem die Kirche die ursprungliche Glaubens- 
lehre in der eben entwickelten weise, Entstellungen gegen- 
iiber, erklart und sicherstellt, geht nothwendig auch der 
apostolische Ausdruck in einen Anderen iiber, welcher gerade 
am geeignetsten ist den bestimmten zeitlichen Irrthum recht 
kenntlich dar zu stellen und zugleich abzuweisen. . . . Die 
Entstehung der nicanischen Formel gibt hieriiber den besten 
Aufschuss. Diese Form ist das Menschliche, Zeitliche, an 
sich Vergangliche, und konnte wohl gegen hundert andere 
ausgetauscht werden. So iiberbringt demnach die Tradition 
das Ursprungliche den spateren Geschlechtern oft in anderer 
Form, weil dasselbe Menschen anvertraut wurde, die sich 
nach den Umstanden in welchen sie sich befinden, benehmen 
muss.' ... 'In der Kirchenlehre kommt uns die Schrift- 
lehre in stets fortschreitendem Verhaltnisse entgegen. So 
geistloss es demnach ist, einen anderen als formellen Unter- 
schied zwischen der Lehre Jesu und der der Apostel zu 
finden, eben so gedankenlos ist es, wenn zwischen der 
Spatern und urspriinglichen Tradition ein anderer Gegensatz 

298 NOTES. [Lect. I. 

erkannt wird.' In general statements like these the differ- 
ence can easily be represented as purely formal. But in 
applying them to cases like that of the Immaculate Concep- 
tion, and the Personal Infallibility, this ' formal ' difference 
between the original deposit and the developed doctrine 
would be found to amount to a good deal. But Mohler 
refrains from examples in this context. Nothing more 
clearly evinces the confidence of Newman in his own theory, 
than the frankness with which he applies it to all sorts of 
arduous cases. 

Note G. — Page 19. 

Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, by John 
Henry Newman, second edition, London 1846. The theory 
is completely stated in the first two chapters. The tests of 
true Development, pp. 57-93, are particularly worthy of 
consideration, as illustrating the vagueness of the process, 
and the loose connection postulated between the original 
datum and the ultimate qiiaesitinn or inveniuin. 

Besides the numerous English publications called forth by 
the appearance of this work, some discussions in Germany 
were more or less occasioned or influenced by it. Schroder, 
Die Idee der Entivickelung, und deren Bcdentiing filr die 
protestantische Kirche, 8vo, Hamburg and Gotha 1848. 

Note H. — Page 19. 

Perrone, in the Tractates de Ecclesia, P. I. c. iv. (vol. viii. 
I, p. 263 of the Roman ed.), cites at large from Mohler the 
passage quoted in Note F, with emphatic approbation. Yet 
for himself he keeps commonly the track of the older way 
of it, e.g. in Tractat?ts de locis Theologicis, Pars II. sec. ii. 
The truth is, however, that the older view of tradition, when 
completed by the assertion of the power claimed for the 
Church to decide, infallibly, emergent questions, slides neces- 
sarily on toward the later view of development. The power 
in question is practically a power to add articles of faith. It 

Lect. I.] NOTE I. 299 

must prove so, unless it had been exercised with a sobriety, 
the bounds of which Rome long ago transgressed. All that 
remains is to adjust the theory of it, and that varies as the 
exigencies of controversy may suggest. 

Note I.— Page 21. 

Specimens are plentiful, e.g. John Owen : 

' Cum vero Deo placuerit initio reformationis seculo su- 
periori tentatae, lumen et veritatem suam in simplicitatis 
evangelicae praedicatione emittere, nihil fere erat in tota 
Ecclesia apostolica quod aeque piis et bonis viris odio erat 
et abominationi, ac theologica ista scientia quae tum temporis 
in scholis et academiis dominabatur. An in ipsis ecclesiarum 
reformatarum scholis, atque inter omne genus viros doctos 
ilia ipsa theologia philosophica denuo locum suum recupera- 
verit, necne, penes alios judicium esto. Addam, quae habet 
vir doctissimus Johannes Drusius. " Canis ad vomitum 
redit," inquit, "qui redit ad id, quod primi reformatores 
evomuerunt. Ea est theologia scholastica, quam qui sec- 
tantur, veram negligunt, hoc est, verbum Dei ; unde omnis 
Veritas Christiana, et ea ipsa quam scholasticam appellant, 
mixta fermento humano, sic est tam pura et sincera non 
.sit quam esse debeat. Ouando tandem haec reformabuntur } 
nam ante non erit pax in ecclesia." ' — De natura verae Theolo- 
giae, vi. cap. 8. 

Or Amesius : ' Nostri autem theologi praeclare se instructos 
esse putant ad omnes officii sui partes, si dogmata tantum 
intelligant, et utinam intelligerent. Neque tamen omnia 
dogmata scrutantur, sed ilia sola quae praecipue solent 
agitari, et in controversiam vocari. Scripturae idcirco illas 
tantum particulas inspicere curant, quae ad locum ahquem 
communem aut controversiam definiendam ab ahis vident 
citari. ... Sit igitur haec prima et unica vestra cura, ut 
scripturas distincte perceptas habeatis quasi familiares, ex 
quibus et stamen et trama theologiae constat. Ex aliis 
authoribus, illi praecipue eligendi et lectitandi qui succum et 
sanguinem Scripturae sapiunt, qui ad praxin pietatis deducunt. 

300 NOTES. [Lect. I. 

Controversiarum scientiam necessariam nobis fecerunt hae- 
retici : sed studium pietatis ut absolute necessarium Deus 
ipse mandavit. Si igitur sic insaniamus circa quaestionum 
pugnas, ut pietatis doctrinam negligamus, nescio sane an 
haereses multae non aeque fere noceant impugnantibus, quos 
abstrahunt a tanto bono, ac recipientibus ipsis nocent, quos 
attrahant tamen in magna mala.' — Paraenesis ad Stiidiosos 
Theologiae, appended to De Co7iscientia. 

These have been selected, because no one who knows the 
writings of these authors will accuse either of them of in- 
difference to orthodoxy, or of an indisposedness to doctrinal 
distinction and debate. 

Note J. — Page 21. 

It would be easy to adduce specimens in illustration of 
the statement in the text from the literature of any of the 
leading churches. Perhaps, however, there is not a more 
striking example anywhere, than is furnished by the contro- 
versy concerning grace in the Church of Rome, including 
both the dispute technically known as De auxiliis, and also a 
large part, the greater part, of the Jansenistic controversy. 
Matters were discussed in these controversies of very con- 
siderable moment, and men took part in the conflict who 
were of undoubted eminence. And yet little indeed is left 
to reward the student, in those hundreds of volumes of con- 
troversy, which still forsake the true sources of certainty, and 
still decline the true issues. 

The unprofitableness, speaking generally, of this body of 
controversy, was occasioned partly by the mere proclivity of 
the disputants to raise and discuss questions of a kind, and 
in a form, which precluded sure footing and sure progress. 
But besides, there were particular difificulties attaching to the 
position of each party, which kept each of them beating the 
air. It is worth while to mention what these were, because 
they present an instructive instance of the ways in which 
theological discussions, intensely interesting and animated at 
the time when they are undertaken, may be well-nigh wholly 
bereaved of fruit for those who come after. 

Lect. I.] NOTE J. 301 

Several parties have here to be considered. First, there 
were the Jesuits or Molinists, and those who in the main 
concurred with them. They held views which were really 
semi-Pelagian ; and had they frankly taken up the responsi- 
bilities of that position, they would have contributed their 
share to make the discussion real and instructive. Molina 
himself may be said to have been explicit and candid in his 
statements, unless his peculiar modification of the doctrine 
of Predestination may be regarded (which is not my own 
opinion) as an attempt to mystify his position. But the party, 
as a whole, desired to be semi-Pelagian in effect, without 
being quite semi-Pelagian in show ; they desired to differ 
from Augustine on every head of the doctrine of grace, and 
yet to avoid too sharp a collision with the great reputation 
and authority of that Father. A certain amount of complica- 
tion arose from this cause. Still more, probably, arose from 
the fact, that their object was not so much to make good 
their own theory on the field of argument, but to get their 
opponents condemned as heretics. But they had to condemn 
them, without at the same time manifestly condemning 
Augustine. Hence their strength is largely spent on labo- 
rious and insincere distinctions, with a view to be able to 
qualify as heretical, modes of teaching which in all their 
substantial features were Augustinian, and yet to leave Au- 
gustine in honour. 

The Dominicans again, or the new Thomists, had it for 
their point of honour to maintain the doctrine of sufficient 
grace, and yet to maintain the distinction between sufficient 
grace and efficacious grace. The former they maintained 
because it was the general Church doctrine, also because the 
denial of it would have exposed them to be regarded as 
heretical Jansenists. Moreover, it agreed with the view they 
took of the conditions of human responsibility. They taught, 
therefore, that ordinarily a sufficient grace is given, of which 
the definition is, that by it a man ca7i repent, and can turn to 
God. But then, as followers of Augustine and Thomas, they 
felt it to be their mission to maintain that another kind of 
grace, efficacious grace, is necessary, must be present, in order 
to any truly good will or work, and that without it, by the 

302 NOTES. [Lect. I. 

mere sufficient grace, no man ever did or shall turn to God. 
Their opponents (on either hand) at once fastened on this 
inconsistency, and charged them with either contradiction or 
equivocation. Their business, therefore, came to be to ex- 
plain that it was an intelligible and consistent position, to 
hold a grace truly and completely sufficient, and yet to hold 
that, unless efficacious grace were added, the former did not 
suffice. On arguing this point, a great part of their labour 
was spent. There was, however, another complication in 
their position. As followers of Augustine and Thomas, they 
held not only the necessity of efficacious grace, but also the 
certain operation of the grace that deserves that name. It 
secures and operates the consent of the will. But it happens 
that the Council of Trent, rather- to the displeasure of the 
Dominicans at the Council, had defined the operation of 
justifying grace to be such, that the will is able to dissent if 
it chooses. The will is free in such a sense, that it retains 
throughout the power of arresting the process, which grace 
is carrying on, by dissent. The Thomists had courage 
enough to face this difficulty. It would have been simple, 
but not satisfactory, to decline the decision of the Council of 
Trent ; it would have been simple also to renounce the teach- 
ing of Augustine and Thomas. But the Thomists adhered 
to both. They professed to be ready to say, with the 
Council, that the justified man ' posse dissentire si velit ;' and 
yet to maintain, in the line of their hereditary doctrine, that 
' haec duo sint incompossibilia^ quod scilicet gratia efficax 
ponatur in homine, et homo actu dissentiat' Here was an- 
other paradox, in the defence of which another great part 
of their strength was spent. 

The Jansenists maintained a doctrine regarding man's 
original state, its responsibilities, and the principles on which 
sin is to be measured and the guilt of it assigned, which was 
of high importance, capable of thorough defence from Scrip- 
ture, and supported by the authority of Augustine, if his 
teaching is fairly understood and expounded. The illustra- 
tion and defence of it did not necessarily involve anything 
petty or unworthy. But then it came into conflict with 
Papal bulls issued in the case of Baius of Louvain. Hence 

Lect. I.] NOTE J. 303 

it became necessary, or was thought to be necessary, to state 
the tenet not so much in its natural terms as in an equivocal 
manner, and so as to distinguish it artificially from the 
doctrine condemned in Baius. Again, the Jansenists, like 
the Dominicans, held high doctrine on the necessity and the 
certain operation of efficacious grace. They differed from 
the Dominicans in refusing to involve themselves in the 
contradiction of asserting a sufficient grace which is not effi- 
cacious. But then they also, as much as the Dominicans, 
had to reckon with the decrees of the Council of Trent, and 
to furnish, if they could, some decent sense, in consistency 
with their principles, for the ' posse dissentire si velit' Their 
battle too, therefore, revolved round these fixed points. 
They had to be ever busy fitting their expressions as best 
they could to the conditions here referred to. Lastly, the 
Church of Rome, guided by a sure instinct, meant to con- 
demn the Jansenists, This would have been a clear and 
intelligible business, had that Church proceeded on semi- 
Pelagian or Arminian principles, enacted these into law, and 
passed sentence accordingly. In that case, the propositions 
condemned might have been made unequivocal in their 
turns, and the discussion might have been worthy of the 
subject. As it was, the condemnation was really animated 
by a semi-Pelagian feeling, yet Augustine and the Thomists 
were not to be openly attacked. Therefore the propositions 
condemned are vague and equivocal, and the discussion about 
them soon resolved into elaborate hair-splitting about the 
senses in Avhich they might be taken, and the shades of dis- 
tinction which separated the Calvinistic, the Jansenistic, and 
the Thomist sense. A church that makes room equally for 
the Thomist and the Molinist doctrines of grace, may, if she 
chooses, condemn the Calvinistic and the Jansenistic ; but 
her reasons for doing so cannot be of much interest or im- 
portance to anybody. 

All round and all through this elaborate controversy, 
therefore, we find all the parties engaged in a highly refined 
and artificial kind of fencing, or, to vary the figure, balancing 
themselves on tightropes in a dexterous, unstable manner. 
Considering the solemnity of the topics, the impression made 

304 NOTES. [Lect. I. 

is saddening ; and, for the student, a great part of the dis- 
cussion proves wearisome and unfruitful. This may be 
regarded as a capital instance of the fatal manner in which 
considerations foreign to the real doctrinal issue, as a mere 
question of Christian truth, may operate to divert and waste 
the energies of generations of earnest men, and to annul the 
benefit which discussion, when it must be undertaken, ought 
to leave behind it. 

Note K. — Page 22. 

For example, Semler : ' Wenn es nun aber weiter audi 
wahr ist, dass Theologie, wie alle sogenante Wissenschaft 
und dazu gehorige Lehrbiicher, unter der allgemeinen Ord- 
nung aller menschlichen Arbeiten und Beschaftigungen, 
stehet ; ich meine der Succession und Veranderlichkeit, 
selbst nach Gottes Ordnung, unterworfen ist ; welches die 
Vergleichung solcher Biicher mit sich bringt, wenn jemand 
sie von irgend Einem Jahrhundert mit einander und mit 
nachherigen zusammen halt : so war ja auf meiner Seite 
weder Vorsatz noch Siinde daran Schuld, das ich dieses 
immer mehr deutlich und gewis einsahe ! Es war ferner 
gewis, dass kein Theologus iiber den andern ein Gebiet hat, 
weil es unmoglich ist, der Einschrankung und Localitat sich 
zu entziehen : so war es also keine Frechheit wenn ich solche 
Lehrbiicher, gegen jetzige Localitat, nun als mangelhaft und 
unrichtige erkennte ; und theologische, stets veranderliche 
Meinungen, nicht fiir die ewigen christlichen Wahrheiten 
ansahe. Und wenn ich den Begrififen oder Vorstellungen 
zusahe, die ich nach und nach aus Osten und Westen, aus 
allerley Zeiten, zusammen sammelte und verglich so war es ja 
wol eine unschuldige, gar nicht grosse Entdeckung, dass diese 
Begriffe niemalen ihre ganze Vollkommenheit und genannte 
Bestimmung schon halten ; dass also das Wesen der christ- 
lichen eigenen Religion nicht in Unveranderlichkeit der 
Begriffe, iiber irgend einen Gegenstand, zu setzen sei ; 
sondern gerade in das Gegentheil, in eigene freie Erkennt- 
nis und ihre locale Anwendung.' — Lcbcnsbeschreibwig, 2ter 

Lect I.] NOTE K. 305 

Theil, Vorrede. More suggestive is Lessing, in his ErsieJmng 
des MenscJiengescJilecJit. I regret that, at the moment of pre- 
paring this note for the press, I have not the book at hand. 
He regards Christianity as a great providential element in 
the training of the race, and so far recognises a capital 
movement of human history, not without a significant divine 
intention. But it is clear that, to his mode of thinking, a 
supernatural revelation, especially if it embodies authoritative 
teaching, must be a superfluous and unwelcome conception. 
Accordingly, he regards the Old Testament as a lesson-book 
which man has long outgrown ; and the New Testament, 
also, as a better and more advanced specimen of the same 
thing, which in turn must and will be outgrown in various 
respects, both intellectual and moral. 

It is perhaps superfluous to make citations on a point so 
notorious. One more specimen may be given, from a repre- 
sentative of a quite different school : — 

' Daher konnte sich das begriffliche Bewusstsein vom 
Christenthum nicht auf einmal darstellen, sondern man 
musste zuerst dasselbe in die innere Erfahrung annehmen, 
und dann entwickelte sich allmalig das Bewusstsein, was 
man in dieses Lehre habe. Die Art wie diess geschah war 
bedingt durch den dermaligen Standpunkt der geistigen 
Bildung. Das Christenthum fand, so bald es in das innere 
Leben der Menschheit eintrat, eine fremde Richtung des 
Menschlichen Denkens vor, ein Missverhaltniss, was allmalig 
liberwunden werden musste. Daher nehmen wir in den 
ersten Jahrhunderten eine grosse Differenz der dogma- 
tischen Begrifife, und noch manche inadaquate Formen wahr, 
und doch konnte dabei die Continuitat des christlichen 
Lebens und Bewusstseins bestehen. Die Dogmengeschichte 
zeigt nun den genetischen Entwickelungs-prozess der christ- 
lichen Lehre, zeigt, in welchen Formen die einige christliche 
Wahrheit als Lehre entwickelt ward, und wie sie sich zu 
einander verhalten, und zu dem Wesen des Christenthums 
selbst,' — Neander, Dogmengeschichte, i. p, 4. 

3o6 NOTES. [Lect. I. 

Note l! — Page 26. 

The way in which this is done is to treat all views of the 
atonement, preceding Anselm's, in so far as they involve 
the vicarious element, as manifestly unreasonable, and now 
forgotten or superseded, and to take Anselm's as the point 
of departure from which all modern developments must be 
derived. So in Essays and Reviews ; also in Tracts for 
Priests and People, 1861, No. III. 

A fair account of the mind of the Church on this matter, 
as revealed along the whole course of early literature, would 
show that the idea which constantly reappears, amid all 
variations and fluctuations, is the idea of substitution. The 
recognition of this is essential to any true account of the 
history of the doctrine. It is, in this view, a serious defect 
on Ritschl's part, that in his late work he dismisses so un- 
ceremoniously the earlier indications of the Church's faith 
concerning the Lord's death. 

Note M.— Page 33. 

The course of treatment indicated here, and pursued in 
succeeding Lectures, is, I am aware, in some respects pecu- 
liar ; and I hardly hope that the conception of it will be 
regarded as very satisfactory. The obvious objection to it is 
the abstract character which it assumes, in consequence of 
which I am exposed to the double imputation of indifference 
and presumption : of indifference, inasmuch as I discuss 
questions of form, and not of matter ; I forego the animation 
which the attack of error or the defence of truth might often 
have imparted to the treatment ; and I touch the borders 
of a hundred interesting and momentous questions, and yet 
decline to treat them on their merits ; — and of presumption, 
since it is hard to avoid an air of pretension in speaking of 
matters of so wide a range of application ; not to say that, in 
the second and third Lectures, things are rapidly touched 
and disposed of, which belong in a peculiar manner to the 
unsearchable wisdom of God. 

Lect. I.] NOTE M. 307 

I am not disposed to overrate the importance of the sub- 
ject, treated from the point of view from which I regard it. 
It is, in my judgment, of sufficient importance to warrant its 
being looked at by itself — The existing course of theological 
discussion is pervaded pretty thoroughly by assumptions of 
various kinds about the place, use, warrants, and nature of 
doctrine or dogma. Those assumptions are influential pretty 
much in proportion as they are vague. Incoherent and con- 
tradictory assumptions are often operative in the same mind 
or in the same work. A power is manifestly exerted by 
habits of thought formed on such assumptions, which few 
would regard as legitimate if they were fairly looked at. It 
seems desirable, therefore, that men should give account of 
the views on this subject by which they abide. In proportion 
as this is done, we shall know better where we are : extrava- 
gant theories will vanish of themselves ; the controversial re- 
sponsibilities of all parties will become more apparent. But 
if it is desirable thus to disentangle the topic from the ma- 
terial merits of the mass of concrete questions into which it 
enters as an element, then abstinence from meddling with 
those material merits becomes a condition of the treatment. 
For this reason, in the present course I have been sparing of 
illustrations; and have drawn them rather from controversies 
which are not particularly active, than from those which are. 
Neither have I made it my business to collect and discuss 
all the various theories on the subject which are demonstrably 
or presumably entertained. It would be found hardly 
possible to do so, without implicating the discussion in the 
concrete questions through which the theories appear or are 
presented. I have therefore referred to the known views 
of most writers only in the measure in which it appeared 
desirable to do so for the purpose of making clear the drift 
of those here advocated. I have said, in the text, that I 
speak from the position of the Reformed Theology. But 
I mainly postulate two things, viz. : i. That Scripture con- 
veys to us a real Revelation ; and, 2. That it constitutes a 
sufficient rule of faith. Those who discard either postulate 
will organize their theory of Christian doctrine differently ; 
but to them it is maintained that the theory which those two 



[Lect, I. 

postulates supply, is at least a consistent, credible, and worthy- 
one, exposed to none of the incoherences and subject to none 
of the weaknesses which are occasionally imputed to it. To 
those who accept the postulates referred to the statement 
here made is submitted, as a contribution towards the adjust- 
ment of thought in one department. 


Note A. — Page 34. 

It may be expected that the attitude maintained in these 
Lectures towards the question of Inspiration should be stated. 
I do not know that anything is assumed which is hkely to 
be disputed by any who hold the Scriptures to be the record 
of a real Revelation, who accept as reliable the account it 
gives of the history of God's ways with men, and who regard 
its teaching as the authoritative guide for human faith and 
practice, however they may differ on some subordinate ques- 
tions regarding the conception to be formed of inspiration. 
On those subordinate questions, however, the writer himself, 
while admitting the existence of difficulties that have not 
been solved, sees no sufficient reason for departing from the 
view that Scripture claims for itself plenary authority, — a 
claim which the existence of a certain number of difficulties 
should not avail to weaken. Once the existence of an 
agency such as inspiration has been established or admitted, 
one is entitled to proceed to apply the fact with the expec- 
tation that some difficulties will be met with, and without 
being greatly moved by their occurrence. The objections 
made, from more than one point of view, to the assertion of 
the superhuman character of the Bible ought to be met on 
the merits on suitable occasions ; and sometimes, and for 
some purposes, it may be well to treat questions into which 
Scripture authority enters on the footing of A scrupulous 
regard to the objections taken, and a careful adduction of 
evidence for everything objected to. Here anything of this 
kind is out of the question ; it would require me to write, not 
one volume, but many. I shall only say that I consider the 
position which expresses the common faith of the Church to 

3IO NOTES. [Lect. II. 

be in itself far more reasonable, and far more defensible, not 
only than the extreme one which reduces the Bible to the 
level of other mythologies, but also than the various interme- 
diate positions, in which theorists hover in so uncertain and 
dubious a manner. There is a ' supranaturalism ashamed of 
itself,' as a lively German writer describes it, which tries to 
escape from difficulties by bleaching all its assertions. This 
course fails in the object for the sake of which it is embraced, 
and has nothing to recommend it otherwise. 

Note B. — Page 36. 

No one doubts the fact of a development exhibited in the 
Hebrew Scriptures. How it is to be conceived, and how 
explained, is the question. If not due to divine revelation, 
it must be traced to ordinary causes. Much has been written 
to make the latter alternative credible. The Hebrew nation 
and the Old Testament, as we are told, are to be explained by 
a double development along two distinct but connected lines. 
First, in the race itself you have a stock destined, and tending, 
to unfold a powerful and elevated religious consciousness. 
Such a nation may be expected to produce — does produce, 
from time to time — men who exhibit in an exceptional 
degree the characteristic tendency of their race. Such a 
nation passes through experiences, often remarkable, but 
yet essentially as earthly in character and origin as those 
of any other nation. There is here nothing divine, except 
as all providence is divine. But yet, conformably to their 
prevalent tendency, the race wed their lofty religious im- 
pressions to their history. Those national experiences are 
singled out by the national mind as the memorable and 
decisive ones, which fall in with its religious cravings, or 
which are capable of being regarded as providential expres- 
sions of divine thoughts and principles. The usual fancies 
of superstition, and exaggerations of tradition, obey the 
same influences, — they assume a religious character ; and 
thus the vast distortions' of fact which these causes import 
into all early history, and have plentifully imported here, 

Lect. II.] NOTE B. 311 

serve in this case to render more pronounced the religious 
character of the whole. The tradition sets in a definite 
religious mould, and reacts on the national temperament in 
the way of confirming and strengthening the tendencies from 
which originally it received its own type. The people, or 
the more characteristic representatives of it, are more and 
more disposed to see in the present the continuation of the 
past, which they have learned to represent to themselves in 
the manner thus suggested. They are more and more dis- 
posed to take all their experiences as containing and de- 
veloping the same significant history — to understand them 

Then the accounts of the primeval history of the world (as 
distinguished from that of the race) are to be understood 
simply as the remodelling, under the more modern influences 
and impressions, of the mythology which the fathers of the 
race handed down. It is an improved version, conformed to 
the type of thought and feeling which gradually grew up and 
became confirmed. 

In a similar way, the literature is to be conceived as grow- 
ing gradually into form, moulded by that spirit of the race 
(which age by age grew into strength and precision) within 
which each individual mind worked. The earlier portions of 
it attained the measure of congruity and consistency of tone 
which they possess, in consequence of a process which is to 
be assumed to have taken place, viz. that the most important 
parts were substantially worked over again, and again, and 
again, so that what was or might have been anomalous and 
refractory gradually disappeared. How many times (accord- 
ing to this account of it) Genesis passed through the fire of 
brooding minds, intent on conceiving harmoniously and 
fittingly the rise and progress of the race ! Or, to change 
the figure, by as slow a process, as incapable of being de- 
scribed in all its details, as that of a stream working on the 
rocks, the history was gradually water-worn — chiselled into 
shapes which, however various, have a consistency, and im- 
press the mind with the sense of pervading analogies, and of 
one informing spirit. 

Not, however, that the process by which the literature 

312 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

gradually took its final shape was wholly unconscious. A 
pretty free operation of design has to be asserted. Thus, 
some one very greatly possessed by the spirit of the chosen 
people in its most energetic operation, produces, later in the 
day, the book of Deuteronomy. He knows, of course, that 
his book is not authentic history : it is only a modern divina- 
tion of what the last words of Moses might have been. But 
to him, and those who are acquainted with the source of his 
work, this is a very insignificant circumstance. Being a 
version in harmony Avith the national r^Qo^, it ought to be 
treated as if it zuere historically true ; and presently it is so 
treated, and continues to bear faith thenceforward. 

On our side of the Channel, views like these are apt to 
be associated with a rather emphatic rejection of what has 
proved to be thus unreliable — at all events, a rejection of it 
in the character of a religious guide. I will not assert that 
this must be so. A man like Ewald, persuaded that this 
spirit which grew in Israel was in the main, and in its choicer 
instances, a truly divine breath in the world's history, and 
that its growth and operation were one of the greatest 
blessings the world could receive from the supreme Lord of 
providence, will contrive to preserve in honour and influence 
in his mind the spiritual aroma of the history, when all the 
facts become fluid, and transform themselves under the 
operations of criticism. According to him, indeed, the 
history becomes tenfold more precious and edifying, more 
fruitful of faith towards God and service toward men, when 
considered as arising from this process, than if we had to 
take it in the comparatively vulgar and unspiritual character 
of a report of facts which fell out as they are told. But the 
landing-place to which the theory will conduct its adherents 
is obvious ; and few of them will be at so much pains as 
Ewald, or will possess the qualities which enable him, to 
conceal the character of it from their own minds. 

On the discussion of the critical questions I do not pretend 
to enter. But a remark may be made on the general con- 
ception of the process which is supposed to have made the 
Hebrew people and the Hebrew Scriptures. 

In the first place, it proceeds on a false conception of the 

Lfxt. II.] NOTE B. 313 

people, and of the national genius. There is not the least 
reason to ascribe to the Jewish people the elevation or 
purity of sentiment which the theory requires, nor yet the 
genius for spiritual thought. It is reasonable to ascribe to 
them a great susceptibility for what may be called religious 
intensity. But that susceptibility will not secure worthy 
religious developments. It may ally itself to the baser as 
well as to the loftier modes of religious thought and feeling, 
and in the case of the Jews it was quite ready to do so. As 
regards spiritual thought, the character of the race suggests 
rather retentiveness than originality and initiative. The 
whole history suggests the idea of a race raised above itself 
by thoughts and institutions to which it proved unequal. 

Secondly, and more particularly, the moral and religious 
consistency of the Old Testament Scriptures never can be 
accounted for in this way. There is a great deal of variety 
in some respects in the Old Testament: very different stages 
of progress are represented, and different points of view 
suggest different modes of view as you pass from one age to 
another. With this, however, is combined a most remarkable 
unity, — the unity characterizing the fundamental elements, 
moral and religious ; and it is not of the nature of a dead 
monotony, as if, after the fashion was set, people ceased to 
care about the matter, and merely repeated the old patterns 
of things : it is a unity realized in an intense and living way. 
It attaches to such conceptions as those of God, sin, morals, 
the destiny of Israel, and so forth ; although, in connection 
with each of those topics, there is growth and progress, the 
fundamental key-note is never forsaken, and the harmony 
grows richer. Now let it be considered what is in evi- 
dence of the contrarieties of thought and feeling realized 
among the people — the inveterate idolatries, the resolute 
rebellions, the impression of being in a minority so often 
expressed by those who upheld the good cause. Nobody 
doubts, probably, no one certainly need doubt, that, amid 
the various impulses which swayed the people to and fro, 
there were many that could ally themselves with strong 
religious enthusiasm, and could rise in that way to heights 
of wild, or gloomy, or eudaemonistic heathenism. Why are 

314 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

not these influences represented in the literature — why do 
we not find the incoherence and inconsistency reproduced 
there, — if the hterature sprang from the national genius 
stimulated by the national experiences ? It may be said 
that a virtual expurgation may have been effected, and the 
heterogeneous elements expelled, by the predominance of 
one particular school of religious thought at the particular 
time or times when the canonical writings were selected, and 
had their text settled. But a cause of that kind could only 
have operated superficially : it could never have fused and 
recast the whole literature, and brought its deepest thoughts 
into harmony. 

There are various characteristics of the Old Testament 
Scriptures to which similar consideration may be applied. 
For example, the argument of Warburton in the Divvie 
Legation, though overpressed, has a basis in fact, and is 
capable of being extended. There are clear evidences, 
though remarkably scattered and occasional, of a hope after 
death cherished by Hebrew saints ; but, in a degree that is 
extremely striking, the territory of the present life is directly 
and immediately in view (in terms at all events) in this 
record of divine intercourse with a chosen race. There is 
a most wonderful abstinence from directly bringing into view 
what might transpire in a life after death, even on occasions 
when one would think it most natural and fitting. Evidently 
it belongs to the scheme of intercourse and of revelation here 
carried out, to be thus sparing. But how came it, that through 
such a succession of time the writings keep so true to this 
characteristic of the scheme } How was it, that intensely 
religious men, and intensely religious periods, did not, as it 
w'ere, break into the unseen world, to find there far the most 
effective leverage and machinery with which to operate o^i 
human motive and human conduct .^ For although, in the 
later books, indications of an eye turned to the life after 
death may be more frequent, still in the latest book, the 
general strain, the prevailing method, is the same as in the 
earlier. Is this to be accounted for by supposing that the 
idea of another world had hardly dawned on the Jews, or 
that they regarded it as too unreal to be a source of influ- 

Lect. II.] NOTE C. 315 

ence ? Surely what the Egyptians had imagined of judg- 
ment after death is proof that there were not wanting hints 
and suggestions, had they been needed, for the rehgious 
fervour of the Jews to work on. The abstinence, I believe, 
can well be accounted for by considerations connected with 
the due order and method of divine revelation to the human 
race, which now from our standpoint may be discerned. But 
if we are here dealing not with divine revelation, but with 
religious vision, aspiration, and imagination, how is it to be 
accounted for ? Certainly Ewald gives a very lame explana- 
tion, Geschichte des Volkes Israel^ ii. p. 121 (Gottingen, 1845), 
It ought to be acknowledged, at the same time, that the 
rationalistic writers have done service in showing how large a 
part in the whole history has been played by the forces which 
are native to man and society, and which from one stage to 
another carry on the history of nations. There is no reason 
whatever why the divine scheme should not embody, and, so 
to say, avail itself of these in the fullest and most habitual 
manner. Rather, there is every reason to expect that it 
should. But the tendency of the theologian as such is to 
contemplate the divine intention, and the'J divine action in 
carrying it out, and so to ascribe everything or many things 
to God in a more direct and immediate manner than the 
history warrants : in so immediate and direct a manner, as to 
make too little of that in the sacred history, which is per- 
fectly analogous to the process of all history. 

Note C. — Page 40. 

The theory of many persons, proceeded on sometimes 
where not proclaimed, is, that even if you let the miracles 
fall, as mythic elements which wove themselves into the 
history, or at any rate as doubtful elements, incapable of 
being satisfactorily established, you lose nothing. Whatever 
is permanently excellent and great in Christianity, e.g. in 
its representation of the relations of man to God, to duty, 
to his fellows, and so forth, will still remain. They are great 
thoughts, that can never fail out of the mind of the race, 

3i6 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

now that they have been suggested ; and whatever power 
they have to evidence themselves to the mind and heart as 
worthy of God, and congruous to the constitution and wants 
of man, is in themselves. It is an internal evidence, not 
an adventitious ; and whether the cogency of it is more 
or less, it will operate according to what it is worth. For 
example, if there be moral or spiritual force in the idea of 
resurrection to spiritual life in fellowship with Christ's rising, 
the mere suggestion has put us in possession of it. We 
have it, whether Christ actually rose or not. Meanwhile, in 
their opinion, you gain by disembarrassing religion of a 
set of assertions of miraculous events, which are not accept- 
able nor credible to the Zeitgeist, to employ the convenient 
abbreviation which Mr. Arnold sanctions by his usage. No 
one can desire that those who have ceased to believe in 
the miracles should be deprived of any benefit which they 
conceive themselves still to derive from the great Christian 
thoughts. But they must, of course, cease to be believers 
in the central Christian facts of the Incarnation and the 
Resurrection. And even as regards the Christian ideas 
which they retain, their position is wholly different from 
that occupied by the ordinary Christian. They retain certain 
views, but only as suggestions or impressions which human 
minds have entertained, and which appear acceptable to 
their own minds. It is quite another thing to receive the 
same views in the character of truths proposed by God 
Himself, and with a corroboration of their divine origin. 
To believe in the miracles, is to take the attitude of receiving 
a communication. Moreover, when the miracles are dis- 
missed, the whole structure of sacred history falls to pieces ; 
and all the purposes which, as explained in the Lecture, it 
serves in connection with the development of principle em- 
bodied in it vanish. 

The soi-disant philosophic argument against miracles, i.e. 
against the admissibility of such an idea, or such an assertion, 
deserves only to be characterized as despicable. The argu- 
ment against the sufficiency of the evidence, on the contrary, 
grounded as it mainly is on the proved proclivity of human 
nature to make baseless assumptions and assertions of the 

Lect. II.] NOTE C. 317 

miraculous, in connection with religious movements, must 
always deserve careful attention. At the same time, it is 
to be remembered that complete proof for each separate 
miracle as a distinct fact is not at all required. What is 
required is proof that a miraculous administration, or an 
administration which involved the element of the miraculous, 
was going on. Many different kinds of proof conspire to 
establish that position ; for example, whatever is fitted to 
establish in our minds the belief of a revealing hiterposition 
on the part of God. Then, once that is established or 
made credible, the order of things to which miracles belong 
is given ; and the occurrence of miraculous events as part 
of it, requires no more special support than any other part 
of the narrative. 

On the subject of the place and ends of miracles, I may 
here reprint some passages of a lecture delivered long ago, 
and now out of print : — 

'What God will do, or the style of operation which He 
will adopt, depends on the ends He has in view, and which, 
by His working, He designs to bring to pass. Now the 
experience of the world, as observed and analyzed by scien- 
tific investigators, shows us God's way of working for the 
unfolding of the physical world from age to age, and for 
enabling man to develope his ordinary history in the scene 
so constituted. God's way of working here, and for these 
ends, appears to be by upholding constant forces, which 
operate according to fixed laws. And this result of obser- 
vation may be taken as yielding a presumption that, in 
general, that will be His manner in this sphere and for these 
ends. Yet it can never be more than a presumption ; and 
even as a presumption cannot be stretched very far. We 
do not know where or when reasons may exist, which shall 
make it fit for God to interpose some altered mode of 
working, some form of energy that cannot be reduced to 
the formula I have referred to. Still we see how stedfastly, 
for ages, the order of the universe abides, all things being 
set in number, and measure, and weight. We see how fitted 
this is to promote the education of the race, and to give 
us the opportunity of penetrating one depth after another 

3i8 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

of creative wisdom, power, and glory. We see how impres- 
sively such a mode of working, by its very stedfastness, is 
fitted to train us in the knowledge of some divine attributes. 
We see how the conceptions which this order supplies, 
meeting us and shining out on us from every domain of 
science, furnish the mind of man for steady and growing 
mastery over nature. And so we may well gather that this is 
to be the ordinary character of our experience, as it regards 
God's ways of working in this sphere and for these ends. 

* But there are other ends which God may and does 
design, for the attainment of which miracles seem to be 
the appropriate and most admirable means : not miracles 
scattered without an apparent reason through the workings 
of nature, but occurring as marked exceptions to the 
general order, and in marked connection with the object 
for which they are designed. 

' For miracles accompany revelation. They present them- 
selves as fit works of God when He reveals. This, I may 
say, furnishes us with the reason why we have seen no 
miracles for so many ages (the fact on which the doubt is 
based). If God has closed His revelation, it is no wonder 
that He has ceased for the present to add those signs. 
Objectors love to reason as though miracles, if possible 
at all, might be expected to turn up occasionally in the 
midst of our experiments as pure anomalies, that come 
from nothing and go to nothing. We assert, and are bound 
to assert, no such thing. We believe in no miracles but such 
as are the birth of God's stedfast purposes, and are ordered 
to ends. And believing the ends of miracles to be connected 
with the process of revelation, the fact that they do not 
occur during this period in which revelation has bid us wait 
for our Lord's return, is precisely what we should be pre- 
pared to count upon. 

' I repeat, then, miracles present themselves as fit works 
of God Revealing, The)^ come to us, then, as part of this 
general allegation, that God has been pleased to deal with 
the minds and wills of men by something additional to the 
works of nature, viz. by revelation. So that it is with 
reference to the end thus assigned, and with reference to 

Lect. II.] NOTE C. 319 

that only, that the question ought to be raised : Is the 
natural order of things, with its constant course, the only 
revelation of Himself which God has made to man ? or is 
there a further dealing with the minds and wills of men by 
revelation ? For if so, then here, where God passes forth 
beyond nature to speak, it may be very fit that He should 
pass beyond nature to do. 

'Now through natural things God does deal with our 
minds. They supply to our minds a noble field of exercise ; 
they disclose to us depths and reaches of beauty and order 
that are inexhaustible, for still the boundaries retreat as 
we pass onward over the field. Nor is it only with the 
creatures that our minds become conversant in this discourse. 
That which may be known of God also, is here. His being 
and perfections are in these things displayed to us. And 
there is that within us which teaches us to refer those 
works to a personal and righteous God, and suggests to 
us the law under which He has placed us, and which we 
cannot doubt to be the expression to us of His eternal 
will. He does reach our minds through the things that are 
made ; and the minds which He reaches are so constituted, 
that, being put in play, they do or may gather true thoughts 
of God, — they may discern something of His nature, and 
something of His will. But then this is not enough for man. 
We have the best reason for believing it was not enough 
even in the unfallen state ; certainly it is not enough now that 
man is fallen. 

' God speaks to us by His works ; yet there remains a 
distance ; yes, and there is a silence too. The voice is gone 
through all the earth, the words to the ends of the world ; 
yet there is no speech, there is no language, their voice is 
not heard. For this great nature stands and utters herself 
from age to age in her play of laws, unbending, equal to 
herself; so that the more she is searched, though the chorus 
deepens, widens, swells immeasurably, yet the sum of mean- 
ing is found only the more certainly to be the same, one 
unvarying sameness from age to age — one tranquil and 
majestic testimony to every man and every race — uttered 
still as fully and persistently if there is no man to hear, no 

320 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

mind to be filled by it. Here indeed God is revealed, yet 
so that He remains veiled. There is not enough here for 
man. Bearing God's own image, he needs more. He was 
made for fellowship, for intercourse, for friendship, not only 
with his fellows, but with his Maker. And that implies the 
disclosure of personal meanings, mind apprehended bending 
to my mind, and heart moving to meet my heart. More- 
over, that element in man, in virtue of which he can choose 
and take his course as a moral being, finds no sympathy 
in the stedfast and equal sequences of nature. Man feels, 
indeed, that God must be one who has a moral character. 
But he finds no adequate iitterance addressed by this God to 
the capital capacity of his nature. 

' Even conscience, the monitor within, which, as liffe un- 
folds, suggests to us what the character of the great Creator 
is, does not speak the adequate utterance of man's Maker to 
such a being as man ; rather it moves man to a listening 
earnestness — to say, Speak, be not silent unto me. If there 
be no answer but that w^hich nature gives, then God remains 
veiled and distant. For, let it be remembered, it is the 
nature of man, and the very meaning of his place in this 
scene of things, that he should be dealt witJi from witJioiit. 
The conscience and capacities within fit him to hearken to 
voices from without. And if the constitution and course of 
nature be the only divine utterance so addressed to him, 
then as to the highest wants and capabilities of God 
remains veiled. Wise, indeed. He is, and benevolent, in 
general arrangements, but remote and immovable — dis- 
closing only purposes and meanings that are equal to them- 
selves from age to age. He never, nowhere, comes down to 
walk, step for step, beside my path, and to make me feel 
that, as my life of changes passes on. He has a purpose and 
a meaning for every change, and an individual purpose and 
meaning for the result to which every change shall bring me. 

' That God, therefore, should reveal Himself, in some way 
that is additional to the revelation in nature, should deal 
with our minds and wills in a way more personal and special, 
is surely an adviissible idea. It is so in any view ; but it is 
more evidently so when we view man fallen. If God has 

Lect. II.] NOTE C 321 

any purpose of mercy towards man fallen, it must be re- 
vealed to him and made good to him in a way proportioned 
to his actual state. But man's actual state is that of having 
fallen out of harmony with himself, and with God's works 
around him. He is plainly prone to miss and lose even 
those teachings which nature might afford to a purer mind. 
And he plainly needs information and direction which a 
purer mind would not need to seek from nature, or from any 
other quarter. 

* The sum is, that on all accounts we may judge it fit that 
to His creature man God shall have meanings to declare, — 
meanings which nature does not disclose, of which her whole 
course seems calmly ignorant, — meanings which she was not 
fitted to embody or attain. 

'Now, the method which God will take in this special 
dealing with the minds of men may be easily assigned. 
For we see how He has done it ; and we may at all events 
maintain to our opponents that so He might do it. There is 
nothing unworthy or unlikely about it. God can convey 
His meaning by a direct and most inward impression on His 
creature's mind, accompanying it with an assuring evidence 
as to the source from which, and the authority with which, 
it comes. He might do that in the case of every man. But 
as I have already said, so I now repeat, it is the nature of 
man, and the explanation of his whole place and constitu- 
tion, that he was meant to be dealt with/r^w zvithont. He 
is dealt with through persons, and through things without 
him, in all of which he finds the materials of his history, and 
the objects upon which his capacities are exercised. God, 
therefore, has chosen to deal with man, by making His in- 
ward impression on His servant's mind to be a message and 
a meaning concerning things and events transacted in the 
world. To these things and events the divine meaning is 
attached, or in these it is embodied and realized. And this 
being declared by God's servant, God is seen and found 
entering into a special course of dealings with men ; setting 
them forth into a history of transactions with God, at every 
turn of which they may be conscious of His nearness to them, 
of that regard and bent of His thoughts, His judgments, and 



NOTES. [Lect. II. 

His mercies, which mere nature never could disclose. So 
He did before man fell. So He has done ever since. And 
thus man's nearest and most momentous relations to his 
God, in those matters in which man is above nature — in 
which man is not measured by mere mechanical forces — 
those relations are ascertained, unfolded, exercised, so as to 
produce the effects that are embraced in God's design. This 
is the kind of professed revelation to which the alleged 
miracles are attached. No one can show that such a revela- 
tion is unsuitable to man or unworthy of God. Now I say 
that such a revelation, unfolding meanings of God which 
nature cannot disclose, of which from age to age she takes 
no note and makes no sign, might most fitly be accompanied 
by works of God that are no part of the order of nature, 
are no birth of the forces that are governed by her laws. 
Are not such works a fit token that those divine meanings, 
which man is now to apprehend and deal with, and keep 
in view as he looks out on the scenery of his life, are sure 
objective realities .-• Do they not fitly assure him, that 
though nature does not echo them to his inner man, as she 
does some other truths, yet he need not doubt nor fear, as 
though this persistent silence of nature were a silence of 
God } Do they not fitly assure him, that this added meaning 
with which he is called to deal is no fancy of some erring 
brother passing into his own fancy, but is indeed the un- 
folded mind of God .'' 

' So then, in general, the miracles come to serve for attesta- 
tion of the authority of the messenger ; they are the work 
of divine power, here and now accompanying the man, and 
going forth at his word. He that is able to announce a 
present work of God, of the nature of immediate interposi- 
tion, apart from the ordinary forces of nature, may well be 
thought commissioned to declare God's mind on those other 
matters in respect to which He announces a message from on 
high. This, in general, is the leading function of miracles. 
But there are several additional considerations which are 
fitted to shov/ you how fitly miracles occupy this place, and 
in how many ways they are adapted to produce on the 
human mind the precise effects intended. 

Lect. II.] NOTE C. 323 

' For, first, they are striking in their own nature ; they 
attract and secure attention by their very unlikeness to the 
ordinary course of things. They call into the liveliest exer- 
cise that sense of awe to which immense and strange power 
wielded by the will of one unseen, disturbing the ordinary 
course of affairs, always gives birth in human minds. This 
effect, indeed, is produced primarily in the witnesses and 
the contemporaries ; but it is not confined to them. For 
every one who receives the message, down to the latest 
generations, may receive it as a message so from God, that 
when it came, God laid claim to human attention and human 
submission by these emphatic and exceptional signs. To us, 
who are hardened and confused by sin, this admonitory 
emphasis of communication serves a most important purpose. 
For who does not feel that, as a race, we are in a condition 
of bondage to the creature, " serving the creature more than 
the Creator .-' " This is our sin, that we have regard to the 
creatures, the order of things around us, as a seat of power, 
and a source of good, independent of God, and considered 
apart from Him. On the other hand, that Divine Being, 
whom we do not altogether deny, we are skilful to place far 
away ; and we think of His will, so far as it is His, as no 
such august matter, just because all things continue as they 
were. On these accounts the appeal to our attention is 
made in a way precisely adapted to the evils of our state, 
when along with the message (which, even if we believed it, 
we might be disposed to treat so idly) we have presented the 
idea of God's power in movement — in movement along a 
line of sudden energy that is strange to nature. This pre- 
sents to us a person who sets forth his will in deeds. It 
suggests to us how much we need to have our relations to 
that Power, and the results it brings about, and to the prin- 
ciples which it is pledged to enforce, adjusted and set right. 

' But again, in another respect, the miracle is precisely 
adapted to be the proper and convincing pledge of the truth 
of revelation. For observe what it is that revelation is con- 
cerned to set forth. It sets forth or reveals God ; yet not 
merely, nor mainly, God in the internal glory of His immanent 
perfections, but rather God contemplated in that which He 

324 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

is doing and ivill do. The communion or fellowship of God 
with man always proceeds by a manifestation of that which 
God will do. Special dealings and ways of procedure on 
God's part, on which nature is silent, are announced ; things 
which God pledges Himself to effect are declared. And 
man is to order and conform his ways answerably to those 
pledged proceedings of God. For man, as a historical being, 
is not called to stand with God, but to walk with Him. 

' What the revelation therefore declares to man is this, 
how the power of God will go forth in action, in justice, faith- 
fulness, and love ; and this egress of God's power man is 
thenceforth to expect, and in the expectation of it, dealing 
with God as pledged to it, he is to go. This, I repeat, is the 
general character of divine revelations. Now, on account of 
this general character which attaches to them, the fit evidences 
are miracles and prophecy. Of prophecy, which is itself a 
miracle, I will not speak now. But the miracle is an exhibi- 
tion here and now of divine action going forth in a manner 
and along a line strange to the action of constant causes and 
ordinary laws, singling out an effect which is not contained in 
the order of nature, and bringing it to pass. So it stands for 
a token that the agency of God shall not fail to be there and 
to do its work, when the times of the promise come round ; 
it stands for a token that the likelihood based on the appear- 
ances of things, on that certain order which seems to look so 
impassive on all our hopes and fears, is not to measure or 
bound our faith. It justifies us in resolving that our faith 
shall measure its confidence only by the word, from which 
shall not be parted the power, of the Infinite One, 

* Still more impressively, however, do such considerations 
present and press themselves when we come nearer to the 
practical exigencies of man, and consider what God under- 
takes and calls us to expect in a revelation of mercy. The 
revelation comes to sinners, and it sets forth a scheme of 
restitution. It finds us not only darkened and perplexed, 
which we have stated already, but undone. 

* It finds us fallen, and so fallen, that neither nature nor 
conscience, in virtue of any power in either or both of them, 
shall enable us to emerge again on the platform of a state of 

Lect. II.] • NOTE C. 325 

solid well-being. The object, therefore, of the divine word 
and deed is not merely to unfold the possibihties and im- 
possibilities of our actual state, but to make a new beginning 
of our highest life, from which beginning there shall go for- 
ward a career of deliverance and glory. This indeed may be 
denied ; men may assert that the fall was not so deep, and 
that the remedial dispensation does not import anything so 
extraordinary. But it is enough for my argument, that the 
case may be in this respect as I have stated it. This may be 
the actual fact and the Scripture doctrine : the fall may be 
so deep, the remedy so wonderful and decisive. When we 
are maintaining the fitness of the miracle to be appended to 
the doctrine, we must be allowed to bring forward our own 
persuasion of what the doctrine is, and to allege the con- 
gruities discernible from our own point of view. At all 
events, whether granted or not, it must be asserted and 
maintained against all who deny it or explain it away, that 
the case is even so, that the fall is so ruinous, that the re- 
demption must be so decisive. But if the case be so, or be 
anything like this, then manifestly the question which is 
raised, and may be addressed to every teacher inspired or 
not, about every doctrine revealed or imagined, is not a ques- 
tion of truth merely, but a question oi pozver. Let true things 
be said bearing on the case, and on the relations both of 
God and man to it — true things, never so true and never 
so clearly truths, which God only could reveal, — that is not 
enough : the question is, whether they are truths that set 
forth an assurance of power, actually coming forth to do the 
work required ; and whether they are accompanied with 
tokens and pledges that may certify and sustain the faith of 
so great a thing as. the actual egress and exercise of this 
power. Is this truth wedded to a power and declarative of a 
power fit to deal with such a case as ours .'' Is it allied to 
power, in whose going forth a divine hand shall be laid on 
the ruin of the fall, a new life breathed, a new beginning 
made ; power that shall clear away the difficulties that 
obstruct our return, and open a pathway for us, and bring us 
thereby back to God .-' Are we left to the order of nature, 
and to the resources that are contained in and measured by 

3^6 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

her laws ? Are we left to those forces, doomed to labour in 
contrivances that still break down, seeking to make nature 
serve a purpose for us, for which her powers were never 
destined ? Or, ceasing from the toil, are we left to stand in the 
world, amid its many-ordered harmonies, and feel how sadly 
they look on the creature that has fallen and gone astray .'' 
Is that our case ? Or is there power, and does there come 
to us the assurance of a power, v/hich has entered into history, 
and can enter into our hearts, — a power adove any or all the 
powers that are contained in the order of nature — above them 
all ; power, which, however gently it entered into history, 
however secretly it may work within the heart, is a power of 
that order which wrought in the beginning, and made the 
beginnings, — a power that can lay, has laid, a new foundation, 
and can wake the pulses of a new heart .-* That is the ques- 
tion oi Redemption — a question not of truth only, but of power. 
God means us to feel it to be tJie question. When we say so, 
we neither deny nor disgrace the natural order, which is good, 
and worthy to abide stedfast for its ends. Nor do we forget 
that that redeeming power has also its order, doubtless a 
glorious order, w^hich we partly apprehend. Nor do we 
forget that usually that redeeming virtue is so co-ordinated 
to the natural order, or takes up that into its working, as to 
make no jar. But yet, in the end, that question still returns. 
Is there such a power pledged and working — power measure- 
less .-• Are we assured that it comes, able to exceed and bear 
rule over all the forces of the natural order .'' Are we assured 
that there is no fate in that order that can stay its blessed 
course .-' Is there a power that can bid any waves be still, 
make any diseases whole, awaken out of the most real death } 
We need a revelation that shall deal with us so as to make 
this manifest and plain to us, — a revelation that shall mark it 
as a most experimental matter of fact. For this is the con- 
dition and the only ground of true faith in redemption ; not 
otherwise shall there be born and reared a faith that, in the 
presence of the evils of our state, shall expect and embrace 
redemption. There are times, decisive times, in the lives of 
men, when this order of nature that girds us about, with its 
sure recurrences, its unhalting processes, its onward march, in 

Lect. II.] NOTE D. 327 

which it seems to say, " The sum of power is mine, and I am 
the highest law," presses upon men very sore. There are 
times when, doubting if there be anything beyond this that 
they can practically deal with, men begin to realize what 
the order of nature means for a transgressor ; for this is the 
order of nature, that the past determines and shapes the 
future. And the question rises, — He that came, asking for 
our faith, did He come like so many others, bringing words 
only, very good words, but oh how feeble ! or did He come 
with word and deed, words wedded to power, as one able to 
reverse the past, and make all new ? Surely miracles were 
one direct, fit, most reasonable way to make this clear. 
Marvellously it sustains and leads on the mind, when we are 
passing in to deal with Christ about the inward mysteries of 
the heart of man, and the life of God, that we see those 
mighty works of His ; that we see how the magnificent and 
ancient order, which claims silently to sum in itself all the 
possible, retreated before His word to make way for new 
possibilities, for divine effects ; so that what was most way- 
ward and what was most stable in nature put a new de- 
meanour on when He came near, and waves and storms 
were quieted, and death awoke to life.' 

Note D. — Page 41. 

The hypothesis of a sinless state, not lost but maintained, 
is not to be excluded in considering the possible roads which 
lay open before our race in the beginning. In following out 
that idea, there is no necessity to assume extraordinary 
degrees of knowledge or attainment as the starting-point. 
All that need be assumed are those simple elementary 
conditions which Genesis suggests. Those might have 
been the beginning of a noble career of progress. As man 
went forward in earthly works, as new relations unfolded, as 
the spiritual nature of man was exercised in the changing 
scene, and as successive revelations, when it pleased God, 
attached themselves to the facts and duties of life, those 
earthly things would no doubt have turned out to be the 

328 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

elements from which the loftiest lessons as to divine and 
spiritual things would have been evolved, and by means of 
which noble attainments in fellowship with God would have 
been achieved. The history, in point of fact, has taken 
another course ; but it is still well to remember, that to be 
trained in this historical method is proper to us, not merely 
as sinful (and therefore dark and ignorant), but as men. 

No doubt, if we argue from effect to cause, applying the 
principle that ordinary experience is a sufficient specimen of 
all experience, we shall be led to the conclusion that the first 
man {if there %vas a first man) originally was, like ourselves, 
disposed to do those things which are called sinful, and there- 
fore, like us, did them. That is as much as to say, that there 
was no fall from a sinless state. According to this view, the 
Bible narrative only brings out strikingly the principles of 
evil, that may be held to be involved in every sin. So the 
rationalizing theologians generally. It is the same principle 
which leads Schleiermacher to maintain that, along with the 
perfection which, as he acknowledges, must be conceived to 
have belonged to man at his creation, a sinfulness must be 
conceived also to have existed. As he explains it, it seems 
to amount to (i) a liability to temptation, and (2) an inca- 
pacity to resist temptation with success for any considerable 
time. {GlatibensleJire, § 72, compare § 94.) 

But the sentence of conscience judging sin is an affirma- 
tion that in some way it pertains to man's nature to be 
sinless, and that to be sinful is a fallen state. On the 
ground of that affirmation, it will, at the very least, always 
occur as an alternative, and indeed as the preferable alterna- 
tive, that man has existed as one not yet sinful. This is the 
alternative that is conformable to the faitJi of conscience. 
The Scripture account has on its side an inward sentence 
which predisposes us to embrace it. 

At the same time, it is to be observed that Genesis simply 
gives us, in historic form, the fact of a primeval sinlessness. 
The subsequent representations, on to the end of the Bible, 
thoroughly harmonize with this view, and strongly pre- 
suppose it. No pictures; however, are drawn of the state of 
man, ascribing to him attainments and virtues such as can 

Lect. II.] NOTE D. 329 

only be the result of experience and development. On the 
contrary, the simplicity of the narrative strongly suggests the 
opposite view. It is to be observed that, in framing to oneself 
a conception of the method and order of the divine dealings 
with man, it becomes indispensable to form some conception 
of his primitive state, and of the relations in which he then 
stood. Theologians can hardly escape the necessity of 
taking some ground about that, either provisionally or de- 
finitively. Yet it must be admitted that, beyond the fact of 
a yet unfallen state, Scripture does not give us much material 
bearing directly on the primitive condition of man. There- 
fore the view taken of that condition of its various elements, 
and of the amount of change wrought by the fall, is regulated 
in each system to a considerable extent by the ground taken 
up on the general topics of Anthropology and Soteriology. 
Scripture materials bearing on man's present state, and on 
the nature and means of his salvation, are supposed to 
establish a general connection of truth ; and this is held 
to imply, because it presupposes, such and such a doctrine 
of the unfallen state. This is a department, therefore, in 
which the peculiar genius of the different theological systems 
reveals itself in an interesting and instructive way.^ When 
considerations extrinsic to the proper merits make it incon- 
venient for contending parties to reveal frankly the real 
amount and ground of their differences regarding the doc- 
trine of sin and the doctrine of grace, the fight has not un- 
frequently been carried over to the theology of the unfallen 
state, as to a ground on which greater liberty could be taken. 
The disputes regarding grace which have taken place in the 
Church of Rome are full of illustrations of this remark. 

In these circumstances, it is not very wonderful that 
theologians have been led to over-press their text. 

It was not unusual for the orthodox systematic writers 
to depict the unfallen state in an exaggerated manner, by 
way of bringing out more forcibly the ruin of the fall.^ 
Exaggeration naturally creates recoil, and a strong disposi- 
tion to distrust the theology of ' original righteousness ' pro- 

^ See Cunningham, Hist. Theol. i. 516. 

2 See e.g. quotation from Hyperius in Kote F, infra. 

330 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

bably exists very generally. Where the opening chapters 
of Genesis are regarded as containing not a historical but 
a purely ideal representation, or where they are set down 
as simply Jewish myth, this tendency is of course very 
thoroughly confirmed ; for although those chapters may not 
in themselves supply the materials for the whole Church 
doctrine of original righteousness, they do supply the basis 
which it needs, and it can hardly stand when they are swept 
away. In so far as the theory of natural development of 
animal species has been accepted as a complete account of 
the origin of man, it works in the same direction. 

But the detail or filling up, which theologians may think 
capable of being supported by grounds more or less strong, 
must not be confounded with the doctrine or assertion of an 
unfallen or sinless state as the original state of man. The 
detailed theological explanations, or some of them, may be 
inferential and precarious : the general doctrine or assertion 
cannot be dismissed without transforming the scheme of 
man's relations and obligations from end to end. 

Note E. — Page 42. 

From the point of view of the Christian student, the 
history resolves itself, perhaps, most naturally into three 
lines of development. It is useful to distinguish them, though 
they are never separated, and cannot usually be completely 
disentangled even in thought. 

First, there is the historical development of human nature 
into its earthly destiny, proceeding according to its actual 
capacities and powers. What was in the capacities of human 
nature and human society had to be unfolded. Those capa- 
cities were injured ; man was fallen ; but he was spared still 
in the enjoyment of many natural gifts. Much, therefore, 
could be done in the way of subduing the earth, combin- 
ing and applying the resources it offered, organizing and 
developing human society, so as to exhibit a notable history 
of earthly achievement.' This might be done variously, as 
various tendencies prevailed. It might in particular cases 

Lect. II.] NOTE F. 331 

be blighted by untoward circumstances, or by failure of the 
vigour of races. Looking to moral causes, it might be, on 
the one hand, marred or made to retrograde by the destruc- 
tive influence of moral evil ; or, on the other hand, way 
might be made for its development to great degrees of 
splendour, if counteracting influences prevented sin from 
bringing forth and ripening all its ruinous fruits. Secondly, 
there is the history of human sin and ungodliness, working 
onward from the first fall. It is variously modified by many 
causes — by outward circumstances ; by the view men took 
of their own interests ; by the wholesome and beneficent 
influence of the providential structure of society, family rela- 
tions, civil government, aiding and sustaining the operation of 
conscience ; or, lastly, by the counteracting influence of grace. 
Thirdly, there is the history of redemption, i.e. of the way 
in which God taught and trained men, or some of them, and 
the measure in which His grace made the teaching effectual. 
This third head might subdivide into two branches : i. The 
history of divine revelation, or of the system under which 
God placed man ; and, 2. The history of the experience and 
attainments of men under the successive stages of divine 
revelation. The second branch involves an inquiry full of 
interest ; but the materials, for obvious reasons, are by no 
means so full and adequate as they are in the case of the 
first branch, and one must content oneself with somewhat 
vague and general approximations. 

Note F. — Page 43. 

The view asserted in the text does not rest on specific 
evidence, but on the general impression that Scripture, in 
recording for us the ways of God with men, has so recorded 
as to give, if not all that was revealed, at least a just impress 
sion of the progress and gradations of the revelation, and the 
style and measure of it at each successive epoch. Unless it 
be so, it is difficult to conceive on what principle the Scrip- 
tures are constructed. 

It is possible, of course, to maintain that matters with 

332 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

which we have now no concern, the interest of which was 
wholly for the men of a past age, may have formed the occa- 
sion of quite peculiar and remarkable revelations ; and yet, 
because the matters are no concern of ours, no record of 
the revelations has been preserved. It would be sufficient to 
reply that tliis ought not to be assumed without evidence. 
But besides, if the hypothesis were granted, it would make 
no practical difference. Revelations wholly aside from those 
which we possess, and belonging to some quite diff"erent 
series, could not affect our impression of the connection and 
gradation of those which we possess. If made known to us, 
they would stand apart in our minds, and those which we 
possess would present themselves precisely as they do now. 

It was not any idea so far-fetched as that just supposed 
which called out the remark in the text. It has been sup- 
posed sometimes, that revelations bearing on the great central 
verities, and more clear than those which are recorded in at 
least the early part of the Old Testament, more fully antici- 
pative of evangelical grace, may have been given to the men 
of those early days, though no record of them remains. The 
object of this suggestion is to facilitate explanations as to 
the possibility of the same evangelical faith and experience 
having been entertained and realized in the world's youth as 
now. But a theological object such as this is, rather exposes 
the suggestion to suspicion than lends it strength. The 
unity of the faith, in whatever sense asserted, must be made 
out from the material we possess, not based on mere assump- 

However, there must be strong inducements to entertain 
the idea in question, for it is met with in thoughtful theo- 
logical writings at all periods down to our own days. How 
it used to be put, it may be worth while to illustrate from 
a very estimable theologian of the Reformation period — 
Andreas Hyperius, in his AlctJiodiis TJieologiae (posthumous 
ed., Basiliae 1574), p. 103: ' Certum est Adamum ante 
lapsum perfectissimam cognitionem de Trinitate habuit : a 
lapsu vero, tametsi ea cognitio fuerit aliquo modo obscurata, 
minime tamen fuit adempta : imo vero multo adhuc clarius 
ille universum hoc mysterium perspexit, quam id in prin- 

Lect. II.] NOTE G. 333 

cipio geneseos describitur, quam illi unquam ex posteris 
doctoribus explanarunt. Et quomodo posset fieri ut per- 
missionem de semine benedicto, id est, de filio Dei mittendo, 
rectius quisquam intelligeret quam ille ad quern ipsius Dei 
viventes voce primum facta est ? Qui autem Patrem et 
Filium novit, Spiritum sanctum pariter ut novit necesse est. 
Idem vero Adam fidelissime omnem eam doctri nam incul- 
cavit apud suam ecclesiam tradiditque eam filio suo et ministro 
ecclesiae, Seth/ etc. 

Note G. — Page 43. 

In a more detailed statement many points would require 
to be made prominent which in the text are assumed or 
are passed by. I may specify the doctrine of the divine 
unity, or the sole and universal majesty of the one God ; 
the energetic conception of the divine nature as the living 
God, in connection with which may be taken the Old Testa- 
ment doctrines of creation and providence, both of them 
delivered and sustained with extraordinary power ; and the 
attribute of the divine holiness, ' in virtue of its pregnancy, one 
of the hardest to expound of biblical ideas,' as a recent writer 
says. The attempts of the naturalistic schools, either to con- 
vict the. Old Testament of inconsistency on these points, or 
to account (on their principles) for the remarkable teaching 
which it presents, are signal failures. This remark applies 
to each of the points specified taken separately. When the 
doctrine on all these points is combined, the result is still 
more impressive. The directness and force with which the* 
Divine Being is presented, first of all, in the form of personal 
agency ; then, in connection with that, the relation which He 
is represented as holding to the creatures universally, as the 
spring of all their manifold life and force — both in the more 
ordered and recurrent forms and in the more singular and 
startling ; lastly, in connection with both of these, the view 
given of this God, implicated though He is with all kinds of 
being and action, as the Holy One, with the intense self- 
assertion and self-separation which that implies ; — all this is a 

334 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

most extraordinary combination. It appears in these Scrip- 
tures presented with perfect simphcity and ease ; and it 
comes to light in those concrete exempHfications, in which a 
mere speculative theory runs the utmost hazard of shipwreck. 
K. O. Miiller, in one of his works, speaking of the vacilla- 
tion in classic mythology between inconsistent views of the 
highest God, which simply contradict one another, has made 
the remark that there is only one book in which the diffi- 
culty is solved, — in which the absolute and self-existent 
One appears without effort and without incongruity at the 
door of Abraham's tent. 

Note H.— Page 44. 

The view of sin presented in the New Testament, e.g. in 
the writings of the Apostle Paul, is stern and dark, and has 
always been resented as exaggerated by a certain class of 
thinkers. It is anticipated, however, and the rudiments of it 
clearly furnished, in the biblical representation of the early 
world. Sin appears as, first of all, a free decision, beginning 
with unbelief and disregard of God's word and will. It 
causes a fall, and thenceforth the race appears in an exiled 
and perverted state. From time to time special instances 
of sin in particular men and races rise into portentous pro- 
minence, and an intense energy of divine displeasure is 
seen breaking through the patience and goodness of God, so 
as to write out His sentence on sin, in large letters, for the 
world to read. But the whole Old Testament history is of 
such a character as to bring into special prominence this 
aspect of all sin, that it is a forsaking of God, and imply that 
it is to be judged with special reference to that aspect of it. 

So, also, the hold which sin has upon man in his present 
state, its power over him, the strength with which it tends to 
its results, are everywhere made visible. This aj^pears, not 
more from the dominion it exerts over evil men, than from 
the energy with which it rises up in men who are, on the 
whole, servants of God. ■ In this connection it is interesting 
to notice how the significant word flesh begins as early as 

Lect. II.] NOTE I. 335 

Gen. vi. to be charged with its peculiar weight of mean- 
ing. Notice how the word is harped upon and recurred to 
throughout that chapter. It is not maintained that the 
full sense of it is here already presupposed ; but some sad 
divorce of ' flesh' and ' spirit,' — at the least, some mysterious 
weakening of the previous connection between them, — is im- 
plied throughout. 

If no doctrine is here dogmatically set forth, a mode of 
view and a mode of feeling are formed which are perfectly 
definite, and which were fitted to operate in receptive minds 
with an energy and a precision not a whit inferior to any 
that can be ascribed to dog-matic statements. 

Note I. — Page 44. 

The interpretation of this great foundation promise — this 
' beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ' — has of course 
exercised the theological mind, and gathered around itself 
a copious literature. The essential fulfilment in Jesus Christ 
is not doubted by any believing theologian. The question 
however remains, as to the range of meaning which the 
words were fitted and designed to convey into the minds of 
those to whom they were addressed ; or, to put it otherwise, 
what sense, put upon the promise by those to whom it was 
addressed, would have been as much as they were warranted 
to believe on the strength of it, neither more nor less. It 
may be said that there are three alternatives as to the literal 
reference of the words : first, that they refer to Christ alone, 
directly and exclusively ; second, that they refer primarily 
to the Church, or to Christ, so that the Church is included 
with Him in the promise ; third, that they refer primarily 
to the race, and apply to Christ as the hope of the world 
and the desire of all nations. The first may be said to be 
the old Lutheran view ; the second more especially Calvin- 
istic ; the third probably finds more favour among modern 
writers, and is susceptible of various forms, more believing, 
or more rationalizing. For the first, reference may be made 
to an excursus appended to Glassius' Philologia Sacra, in 

336 NOTES. [Lect, II. 

which his censure on Calvin is worth observing ; also J. F. 
Buddeus, Historia Ecdesiastica, p. 125. For the second, see 
Witsius, Oec. Foed. lib. iv. i, § xxiv. For the third, among 
many others, reference may be made to Hofmann's ScJirift- 
beweis, i. p. 438. The passage is fitted to suggest various 
other forms of the theory besides that which Hofmann 
himself advocates. See Note K, infra. 

Delitzsch, adopting a principle often appealed to by Hof- 
mann, finds a proof that not merely the general contents or 
drift of the promise, but the very form of it, is divinely given 
in this, that every word of it takes emphatic and pregnant 
fulfilment in the Messiah ; the mode of phrasing, which might 
seem indifferent and accidental, so far as holding forth the 
hope of good to the race in general was concerned, proving 
to be precisely adapted to the ultimate fulfilment. {Die 
Genesis, 1853, p. 75-) 

Note J. — Page 48. 

In connection with the Abrahamic covenant, a remark 
may be made. Attention has already been directed to 
the significance of the fact that, according to the Scriptures, 
the God of nature enters into historical relations with man, 
and continues to evolve them. Now let it be observed how 
the condescension implied in entering into covenants — such 
as that with Abraham — brought a new element in, and 
constituted a step towards the great condescension which 
crowns the ways of God. God not only reveals what He 
has fully resolved to do, but He binds Himself in a covenant. 
He assumes a position in relation to Abraham in which reci- 
procal obligations are recognised ; He has made an agreement 
which must be fulfilled ; He has conferred on Abraham an 
interest in His own future procedure — a right, which may 
be pleaded, to claim the benefits engaged for. Now the 
early Scriptures speak, and theologians have reasoned much, 
of the ' Angel of the Lord,' the ' Angel of the Covenant.' 
Very considerable difficulties attach to the complete ex- 
planation of all the passages, and gather about the question, 

Lect. II.] NOTE K. 337 

How much the old believers attained to think about this 
Angel, and what impressions they cherished in connection 
with Him. But let it be observed, at all events, that in the 
very fact of entering into covenant, Jehovah does silently 
assume to Himself the character of an angel — one sent. He 
takes office-: He binds Himself to ministries which must be 
certainly and punctually discharged. He takes on obliga- 
tions which He is henceforth to be seen fulfilling. God is 
the sender forth of all angels. But here, if it may be 
reverently so expressed, we see Him becoming at the same 
time the Sent — sending Himself along a prescribed path of 
long-suffering divine dealings. In that path He is thereafter 
seen proceeding, year after year, age after age, not only 
with the majesty of divine decrees, but with the patient faith- 
fulness of one who — shall I say ? — executes the commission 
which He has taken on Him in behalf of Abraham, His friend. 
It does not seem wonderful that henceforth, in the faith of 
the Church, along with the impression of the mighty and 
gracious One, who sends out all powers and agencies that 
work in all the world, there is an impression also of One who 
follows His people in a holy unfailing attendance, in the 
attitude of one who executes a charge. It does not seem 
unreasonable to read the remarkable texts concerning the 
Angel of the Lord, in the light of this general impression. 
' The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did 
walk, . , . the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, 
bless the lads.' 

A good statement of the opinions regarding the Angel 
of the Lord may be found in the late G. F. Oehler's Theologie 
des Alien Testament, vol. i. § 60, p. IQQ.'^ 

Note K. — Page 50. 

In a previous Note, the promise of the woman's seed was 
referred to. The promise of blessing to Abraham's seed has 
a peculiar interest, because of the references made to it 
in the New Testament, and particularly on account of the 

1 8vo, Tubingen, 1873. (In course of translation for Clark's Foreign Theo- 
logical Library.) 

338 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

construction put upon it in a well-known passage of the 
Epistle to the Galatians (iii. i6). Such passages illustrate 
the principle that revelations, once made, may become more 
luminous and significant to succeeding ages. Along with 
the disclosure of divine purposes, they may have at first 
something of a secret or riddle in them; and the secret 
unfolds itself long after. 

It can scarcely be doubted that these promises, like many 
others, were not only intended to have, as Bacon phrased it, 
a springing and germinating fulfilment, but also a growingly 
precise and significant interpretation. That is to say, while 
the bare words of a promise, taken in connection with the 
circumstances in which they were first uttered, might be in 
some respects vague, — fitted only to indicate in general a 
certain kind of good, and the quarter in which it was to be 
expected, — a progressive commentary followed, which deter- 
mined the sense more and more precisely, and made the 
believing expectations converge more closely on the intended 
fulfilment. This commentary consisted not merely in sub- 
sequent revelations and promises of a more specific character. 
It consisted also of a course of providences and divine dis- 
pensations. These practically shut men up to certain lines 
of expectation, and rendered the hope more intense as they 
made it more definite. If one may use so plain an image, 
at the delivery of the promise it might be impossible to tell 
in what direction, within many points of the compass, the 
promise would seek its fulfilment ; but after a while, one can 
see that it is marching towards it by given roads and in a 
definite direction. The New Testament references to Old 
Testament oracles commonly take for granted that this 
help to interpretation is made use of. They do not rest on 
the bare words of the passage referred to, but presuppose 
that the organic connection of those words with the series 
of the divine history is observed. 

Those who find Christ in the first promise are accused of 
turning a perfectly general augury regarding the race, into 
a specific prophecy applicable to one single person. And 
just so the apostle is accused of having yielded so far to 
the suggestions of a baseless habit of accommodation, as 

Lect. IL] note K. 339 

to turn a promise regarding Abraham's descendants into a 
specific promise of the single individual Messiah. He is 
also accused of having supported his argument by a demon- 
strably false exposition of the word 'seed,' — an exposition 
intended to exclude the only true and legitimate sense of it.' 
But let us suppose that the apostle had in view not only 
the promise, but the manner in which it was commented 
on by the series of recorded dispensations which carried it 
out. The word 'seed' is vague and large. But from the 
very beginning, a significant principle of limitation began 
to operate. Not all Abraham's children, but Isaac only, 
not both of Isaac's, but Jacob only, fall within it. Then 
the family begins to multiply — all Jacob's sons are dealt 
with as pertaining to the covenant. And yet, within this 
family, expectation is by and by concentrated on certain 
given lines. Not only so ; all through their history there 
is a sort of hidden kernel in this people, which is the 
central thing perpetually dealt with. This is the unity 
amid this multitude all too loosely joined to God in cove- 
nant ; this is that which abides and persists amid all the 
siftings and scatterings. A tenth, a holy seed, is the sub- 
stance of the people (Isa. vi. 13). Until, as time goes on, 
the Messianic expectation becomes more luminous and 
definite, and when Christ at last is given it becomes clear as 
day, that this was the seed whose coming gave life and 
meaning to everything else. The result is, that the whole 
history of the seed, from Abraham onwards, had to be 
managed, and zvas managed, so as to make the lines tend 
towards Christ. Looked at in this light, the apostle's 
criticism is full of significance. If the promise had not 
intended Christ as its proper birth ; if it had not been a 
promise requiring to be fulfilled that way ; if it had been 
a promise of indiscriminate good, to be imparted (con- 
ditionally or unconditionally) to all Jacob's, to all Isaac's, 
to all Abraham's posterity, as they went scattering down 
the diverging lines of their histories, then the word ought 
to have been (TTripfjtjUCTi. For the promise in that case would 

' ' He saith not, And to seeds, as of many ; but as of one, And to thy seed, 
which is Christ.' 

340 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

not have been to one fellowship, made one, and interested 
in the promise, by the seed which is Christ. It would 
have been a promise to a miscellany of diverging fellow- 
ships and races. It was not that, simply because it aimed at 

Similarly, the first promise was compatible enough, in 
its bare terms, with the idea of diffused blessing in the race. 
But apart from subsequent revelations, the mere course of 
providence immediately began to comment upon it : the 
first step being the emergence of two tendencies, and two 
fellowships within the race, representing different and hostile 

Note L. — Page 55. 

A remarkable contrast obtains between the manifestations 
of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and those which are 
made to Israel in connection with the giving of the law ; a 
friendly and gracious character prevailing in the former, as a 
stern and peremptory tone appears in the latter. It is worth 
observing how delicately this is proportioned to the historical 
conditions existing in either case. During the former period 
a process of selection takes place at each generation. Abra- 
ham is a selected man ; of Abraham's sons, Isaac is set aside ; 
of Isaac's sons, Jacob : and thus at each stage a man is dealt 
with who is specially influenced and trained. He is head of 
the family, exerts influence upon it, stands forth in his re- 
presentative character (as head of it) as a believing man. So 
long, it is a congruous thing that the same evangelical friend- 
liness, so to say, which sheds such a peculiar light over the 
history of Abraham, should continue on the whole to mark 
the dealings and communications of God with his great 
successors, though varied somewhat with reference to the very 
distinct characters of each of them. 

But it was not intended always to conduct the history of 
the family on this principle, which indeed would not have 
been consistent with the promise of the multitudinous seed. 
Accordingly, with Jacob the process of selection ceases. The 
family becomes a nation. Any one can see, apart from 

Lect. II.] NOTE L. 341 

further designs, that the mode of dealing which was fit and 
becoming, when Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked before 
God, when the little society might be regarded as charac- 
teristically believing and obedient, could not continue to be 
employed without modification when a mixed multitude like 
a nation was to be dealt with. A change is made accord- 
ingly. Yet God does not draw back from His promised good- 
ness. He interposes in a way more wonderful than ever. 
He brings them out of Egypt with a mighty hand ; and He 
opens His testimony at the mount with the assurance, ' I am 
the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land 
of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' He laid claim to 
Israel, and privileged them, as His own peculiar people. But 
He did so in connection with a certain terrible majesty in 
His manifestations. Near as He is, a certain distance and 
separation are expressed in His ways of dealing with them. 
And now, moreover, He is ever proving them with laws — 
specific, stringent, detailed requirements of service. Apart 
from more special reasons connected with the order of the 
divine dispensations, there is an obvious fitness in some such 
method being employed in dealing with a nation. Indeed, 
the change or transition from the one system to the other 
keeps pace precisely with the change of conditions. When 
all Jacob's sons are grown up, begin to act for themselves, 
and to impress the character of their own choice and action 
on the family life, the new state of things may be said to be 
already manifesting itself in its beginnings. And, contem- 
poraneously, a certain distance and self-withdrawment on 
God's part becomes observable. All the latter part of the 
history in Genesis betrays this feature. It is the preparation 
for the new attitude, so to speak, which is to meet us in 

I may remark that all this, which is very intelligible if, as 
these books say, God was dealing with the race in these 
successive stages, becomes very unaccountable if the Hebrew 
history and books have taken shape under the influence of 
natural causes, and if, therefore, it is a myth that is here 
before us. If the genius of the nation as formed and 
developed led them to present such a view of God's attitude 

342 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

towards their race as is implied in the giving of the law, with 
the subsequent enforcement of it by the prophets, how comes 
it that the same genius gave such a very different view of the 
previous attitude of God to the patriarchs .-' How came it 
to shape the conception of the two stages of its mythology 
so diversely ? 

Leaving that point, however, I may add that the contrast, 
conceived in the manner indicated above, falls in well with 
the Pauline representation of the law, or at least of one great 
aspect and function of the law. The apostle was willing to 
let the observance of it linger on in the case of those who had 
a national reason for keeping it. For them it might be ' no- 
thing ' — do neither good nor harm. But he counted it per- 
fectly intolerable that it should be selected as the form in 
which a man of another nation, called merely to be a per- 
sonal believer in Christ, should express or embody his rela- 
tion to God. It was a departure from God to do so — a 
renunciation of Christ. When we consider that this same 
law-keeping had been the mould of true religion for ages, the 
divinely ordained form within which it grew, and that Paul 
himself, as a Jew, exercised a Christian discretion as to con- 
forming to it or not, and circumcised Timothy because of the 
Jews that were in those quarters, it becomes a striking thing 
to find him fasten upon it the character of being so fatally 
opposite to the truth of the gospel. But, with all its evan- 
gelical elements and references, it had essentially a fitness to 
set forth and bring out the attitude which it befits God to 
take towards a mixed multitude. That is to say, it was 
essentially fitted to express the relation to God which is 
common to men, not that which is peculiar to the believer. 
While doing that, it also did more ; but that character inhered 
in it essentially as the Law of the Lawgiver to Israel. 

Note M. — Page 59. 

In the early Church, the question regarding the view to 
be taken of the law, and generally of the Old Testament 
economy, was naturally felt to be a pressing one. The 

Lect. II.] NOTE N. 343 

Tubingen school, along with other scholars, have turned 
history into romance by their theories as to the controversy 
between Petrine and Pauline Christianity, and the influence 
exerted by it. But they have done service in turning atten- 
tion to the subject, and producing a more lively impression 
of the difficulties and misunderstandings between different 
sections of early Christians, which must certainly have per- 
plexed the Church. Besides this, there was the necessity of 
giving to the heathen and the Jews a consistent account 
of God's ways with men. And lastly, every thoughtful 
Christian had to give some account of the matter to himself 
The Church held on to two positions : First, that the whole 
ceremonial of the ancient economy was done away in Christ. 
Here they were opposed to Jews and Judaizing sects. 
Secondly, that in all the steps and arrangements of that 
economy, God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, 
vi^as preparing the way for revelation of grace and truth — 
that the same verity which was open in the New Testament 
was present throughout the Old. Here they were opposed 
to most Gnostics ; and the method of explication by which 
the point was to be made good was allegory. But the way 
of reasoning from these two positions, and applying them, 
was often exceedingly crude. The pseudo-Barnabas, for 
instance, sometimes reasons as if he believed it to have been 
a mere blunder of the Jews that they supposed the law was 
ever binding in the letter of it. Indeed, a careful reading of 
the Epistle of Barnabas will more vividly suggest the way in 
which the Gnostic sects arrived at a part of their conclusions, 
than much study of Irenaeus and Epiphanius. 

Note N. — Page 64. 

I have endeavoured to state this point with studious 
moderation. Important as it is, it is desirable not to build 
on doubtful grounds. Passages which some interpret as 
properly Messianic prophecies, others prefer to regard as 
prophecies of certain kinds of blessing, known to us, in 07ir 
day, to be Messianic, i.e. to be connected with the appearing 

344 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

and mediation of our Lord, but which are not contemplated 
in the prophecy under that notion, but simply as benefits 
coming. More particularly, the question in various cases is 
whether the prophet spoke, and the people were warranted 
to understand him, of the Messiah ' which was for to come,' 
or only of some bearer and instrument of good to be raised 
up in coming days. Was it clear in those days that all such 
passages pointed to one all-sufficient and perfect Messiah ? 
Or was it indeterminate, whether some of the prophecies 
might not take fulfilment, one in one coming person, and 
another in another } The latter view may be held as to some 
passages, while the former or more explicitly Messianic view- 
is regarded as alone sufficient to explain others. The state- 
ment in the text is consistent with the admission that a 
difference of judgment on this point, with reference to some 
passages especially, exists among those who believe equally 
in Messianic prophecy as one great feature of Old Testam_ent 

However, I may be permitted to make this remark : It is 
unquestionable that the personal faith, the religious exercise 
and aspiration — in short, the experience — of the prophets, 
entered largely into their preparation for their function. 
The impressions made upon their minds by the whole scenery 
of that dispensation, past and present, formed great part of 
the material employed by the inspiring Spirit in the oracles 
which they uttered. They had their point of view, their 
natural and providential preparation ; and that point of view, 
that preparation, were made use of: they spoke from the 
one, they spoke with the other. A much fuller and clearer 
recognition of the large place which this element fills in the 
prophetic utterance is one of the characteristics of modern 
interpretation. To consider the prophet as a holy man thus 
and thus circumstanced, and in these circumstances enabled 
to great exercises of faith, is no doubt indispensable in 
order to a sympathetic and appreciative understanding of 
these writings. How far this will carry us, how much it will 
explain, can only be ascertained by trying. The tendency 
therefore is, and has been for some time, to make as much as 
possible of this method, to try how much can be done with 

Lect. II.] NOTE N. 345 

it. Probably, after this necessary experiment comes to be 
reviewed, it will turn out, as usual, that it has been carried 
too far. When this method is made to explain everything, 
the whole prophetic writings are interpreted so as to need no 
other explanation. That is to say, they are made to be 
merely compositions of able and devout men surveying 
things around them, under the influence of earnest faith and 
enthusiastic religious fervour. The men may still be regarded 
as invested with divine authority. But the thoughts which 
they are authorized to reveal, are supposed to have been all 
naturally attainable, along lines of suggestion which can 
be traced. When the same method is made to explain, 
not everything, but yet too much, then some of the things 
in the prophetic writings which ought to be set down to 
an influence that lifted men beyond themselves, are ex- 
plained so as to require no such extraordinary elevation. 
Now, commonly, the assumption proceeded on is, that 
everything ought to be explained by this natural method 
that possibly can be. If afterwards something remains which 
camiot be so accounted for, let it be explained otherwise ; but 
the latter element is jealously restricted within the narrowest 
bounds. This would be a fair assumption, if it were doubt- 
ful whether an influence existed carrying prophecy more 
decidedly out of sight of natural tracks and suggestions. 
But I speak to those to whom this is not doubtful. I have 
those in view who cordially admit a range of prophetic vision 
not to be measured by any such line. If so, then there is 
no obligation to force passages of prophetic writing down to 
the level of what might be naturally suggested. We must 
assume the free play (according to the objects divinely 
intended) of all the forms and modes of impulse, and the 
free occurrence in prophecy of all the kinds of effect which 
any of those modes of impulse might produce. And we are 
under no necessity or obligation 'io presume the presence of one 
only, as if the other must never be contemplated unless it is 
absolutely forced upon us by sheer inability to interpret it 

However, the interpreter's tendency is to make the most 
he can of the line of natural suggestion ; because that is 

346 NOTES. ' [Lect. II. 

a track which human investigation is competent to travel, 
and to make discoveries in. When we get beyond that, 
we may recognise and confess something, but we can ex- 
plain nothing. 

I repeat, then, that we shall probably find, on a review of 
things, that the tendency even of believing interpretation has 
been to resolve too much by this one key. 

Now, starting and proceeding on the method of natural 
suggestion, it is natural to qualify and disintegrate Messianic 
prophecy. That is, it is natural to assume that the prophet, 
looking around him, and seeing certain forms of evil, and 
exercising faith in God as the God of covenant, was divinely 
set on to give assurance to the people of the reality of 
conceptions which arose in this line — conceptions of good 
that was to replace the evil, glorious kings instead of base 
and foolish, a mighty and effectual priesthood instead of a 
dubious and unsatisfactory, and so forth. To suppose that 
all these anticipations were connected with the hope of one 
single, sublime, all-glorious person, and knit up into the hope 
of him, is more supra-rational, in the sense of being more 
beyond the line of attainment towards which we can discern 
natural tracks and pathways leading up. But if we must 
own such inexplicable attainment in the prophets, — if, in 
particular, we must own true Messianic prophecy, i.e. pro- 
phecy that was such in the prophetic consciousness, — then a 
counter presumption arises in favour of at least a possible 
direct Messianic reference in all prophecy that points to 
Messianic blessine. 

Note O. — Page 64. 

The Psalms in which divine judgments are denounced 
against opponents with intense severity, have been felt to 
occasion difficulty. Much depends on appreciating the point 
of view from which such compositions must be held to 
proceed. The whole course of things was fitted to form 
men's minds to the conception of God's kingdom as a cause, 
sustained under difficulties, against opposition. All those 

Lect, II.] ■ NOTE O. 347 

who took an interest in the promises and calling of Israel, 
necessarily had their minds much occupied with the sense 
of contrast and conflict hence arising. Two forms of con- 
trast came prominently into view. First, that between Israel 
and the surrounding nations. If Israel had been perfectly 
true to her calling, it would have been more apparent. Often 
she seemed to be doing her best to become even as all the 
nations. But that could never be ; the contrast always re- 
mained. It was attended with dislike and opposition. A 
sense of something irreconcilable obtained. The feeling of 
the nations was, on the whole, a desire to cut Israel off from 
being a nation, and to make it plain that their resources in 
divine promises would not prove able to maintain their cause. 
And the view which believers in Israel cherished, the faith 
which it was their duty to maintain, was that these adver- 
saries should never work all their will ; that in seeking to 
do it, they were attacking Jehovah, and ensuring their own 
overthrow ; that the cause which sets itself against Jehovah's 
cause ought to go down, and shall go down. This they were 
taught most earnestly to long for, and most stedfastly to 
believe. Therefore also they express it in many a psalm. 

But there was another contrast, and a nearer one. There 
were many ungodly within Israel. These brought down 
upon her judgment instead of blessing. They paved the 
way for the success of foreign enemies ; and they were at 
the same time the obstructors of goodness, and the perse- 
cutors of good men who strove to uphold God's cause. 
Which of the prophets did they not slay and persecute .'' 
These were the true, and far the most deadly, enemies of the 
great cause. How easily would invaders have been repelled, 
but for the fatal weakness introduced into Israel by those 
who brought on her God's judgment ! Thus the work of 
those who feared the Lord grew to be very much the asser- 
tion of His cause by faithful testimony, and (in the days of 
pious kings) by due execution of judgment against those 
who fought against God. In this conflict, far too often, 
their experience was such as to suggest the idea of sin 
prevailing. The good cause had to be borne up against 
depressing disadvantages. 

348 NOTES. [Lect. II. 

In these circumstances, they were to beheve that the cause 
of God would triumph after all. In particular, they were 
to believe that those who withstood God should meet with 
assured and tremendous overthrow. The two causes were 
impersonated in the two parties. One cause or other should 
go down, in the persons of those who adhered to it. And it 
was a capital and essential exercise of the spiritual life of all 
who feared God, stedfastly to believe and earnestly to pray 
that the cause and party which are against God's cause 
should be irretrievably overthrown. God was to assert His 
cause in a way of judgment. However the wicked might 
seem to triumph, this was to be counted on as sure, that 
the cause and party of sin should go down at last in a 
conclusive overthrow, which should make an end at last of 
the conflict, so sorrowful, trying, and weary. Then, at 
length, when ' the righteous should wash his feet in the 
blood of the wicked, and rejoice seeing the vengeance, men 
should say. Verily there is a reward for the wicked ; verily 
there is a God that judgeth in the earth.' This was waited 
for with inexpressible longing. It was fit it should be. It 
is true that the cause of sin shall go down, in the persons of 
those who maintain it, in such a manner as to throw back on 
them all the evil they have sought to do. This is not the 
only truth bearing on the point ; but it is truth ; and it was 
then the present truth. To cherish the faith of it was a 
principal duty during many dark and weary days. The 
questions of God's being, God's dominion, the Church's hope 
in God, were wrapped up in this. Believers contended for 
this, as for their all, that the other side, with its pride and 
falsehood, with its numbers and its seeming security, should 
not prevail, but should in due time have conclusive right 
done upon it by God. This is the point of view from which 
those psalms are to be understood. 

Note P.— Page 69. 

The methods of representing the origin of the Old Testa- 
ment, and the relation in which it stood to the series of the 

Lect. II.] NOTE P. 349 

world's religious history, which prevailed among the Gnostics, 
are a very interesting study, and afford curious cross-lights. 
Practically they held the same views, at bottom, as the 
more advanced schools of modern criticism. They found in 
Judaism, or imputed to it, a thorough dependence on the seen 
and the material, an external method of goodness, and a 
Deistic relation to God. Therefore they regarded it as 
radically foreign to Christianity. They confessed points of 
connection between the two systems, which they accounted 
for, partly on the ground that Judaism, more than some other 
religions, developed the better capacities of the style of 
religion which is natural to psychic men ; partly on the 
ground that a higher power, working in a manner and for 
ends of which the author of Judaism was unconscious, in- 
serted into it some anticipative germs belonging to another 
order of things. All this led them to impute Judaism to the 
Demiurge, as his peculiar and not very successful contrivance. 
Here, of course, they diverged wholly from our critics, who 
must account for the whole development from human and 
historical sources. But this is a difference in deducing the 
rise of the phenomenon ; the similarity of view in estimating 
the character of it remains. 

However, this is hardly the place for following out the 


Note A. — Page 78. 

On the assumption that the Scriptures embody a divine 
revelation, adapted to the peculiarities of the condition of 
man, which has been completed in the New Testament, one 
might expect a certain character to manifest itself. The 
revelation, in its completed form, is supposed to be left to 
operate, without further change or addition, among men, in 
all the conditions into which they successively pass. The 
conditions of human minds vary indefinitely with the pro- 
gress of history ; yet the supposition is, that the sealed and 
unalterable record is divinely adapted to do its work at each 
stage, through all these variations. If so, we may expect it 
to prove flexible and fertile, capable of copious applications, 
many of them not foreseen until the necessity for them arose. 
And this must be combined with the explicitness and clear- 
ness befitting a divine revelation. Now, in point of fact, it 
will hardly be denied that the Christian records have ex- 
hibited this capability in a remarkable degree. Many 
systems built upon them, as well as phases of feeling and 
modes of conduct professedly based upon them, have passed 
away ; they had their time, and were superseded. But the 
Scriptures, and the message of the Scriptures, have proved 
able to enter as a most powerful force into the life and com- 
binations of the present, as of past ages. No writings laying 
claim to the character of a revelation have exhibited this 
capability in anything like the same degree. 

Hence also it is, that so many various'^ mental tendencies 
find something to lay hold of, or something that lays hold of 
them, in the Scriptures. . For these were designed to claim 
affinity with human life in all its states. No wonder that 

LeCT. III.] NOTE B. 351 

many various minds, powerfully attracted by some aspect of 
Scripture teaching or sentiment, have striven to make them- 
selves its interpreters and representatives ; to interpret out 
of Scripture whatever they felt to be unwelcome ; and to 
give further their peculiar version of the drift of Scripture, 
and the lessons which it is designed to teach. This does not 
prove that there is no definite meaning or message in the 
Scripture ; but only that the contents of Scripture lay hold 
of various phases of mind with great power, and that hence 
a strong temptation arises in the case of each to endeavour 
to gain the verdict of this book on its side. Each school sets 
in the foreground what it seems to understand and appreciate, 
and throws into the shade what it dislikes and misunder- 
stands. And the Bible does lend itself to the process in so 
far as this goes, that whatever each school possesses of sound 
method and sound instinct, finds something congenial in the 
Bible ; whereupon it claims to have found corroboration there. 
This is the foundation, in so far as it has any foundation, for 
the implied taunt in the well-known lines : 

' Hie liber est in quo quserit sua dogmata quisque 
Invenit et pariter dogmata quisque sua.' ' 

And so viewed, there is no ground for a taunt, but rather for 
the recognition of one necessary quality (not the less neces- 
sary because capable of being abused) which a genuine re- 
velation, designed for use under existing conditions, ought to 

Note B.— Page 80. 

According to the views maintained by the ' advanced ' 
schools, the New Testament writings are due to a great 
religious impulse operating in the minds of men as a con- 
sequence of the appearance of Jesus Christ. This impulse, 
operating according to the ordinary laws of human nature, 

^ The lines quoted, which are from the pen of Samuel Werenfels, were not of 
course intended by him to direct a taunt against the Bible, but only to convey a 
sneer at the doctrinal divines of all schools. They are often quoted with an 
application to the book rather than to the readers. 

352 NOTES. [Lect. III. 

but under various conditions which altered as time advanced, 
elicited from various men the writings now admitted into the 
canon, and also some, due to precisely similar causes, which 
have not been so received. The writers are to be venerated 
as men of high sincerity (though in many cases it was of a 
kind compatible with the palming of their own works upon 
the world under the names of other men of greater authority 
than themselves), and of high moral enthusiasm. Some of 
them, besides, — one or two at any rate, — were men of remark- 
able genius. Such works, whatever defects attach to them, 
must ever occupy a great and venerable place in the minds 
of men, and can never be antiquated or superseded. In 
religion, as in art, the works of remarkable men, especially 
the works of great men, produced under elevating and stimu- 
lating conditions which have never since returned, possess a 
power, and a truth also, peculiar to themselves ; and therefore 
they have a value which time and criticism cannot alter. 
We cannot, indeed, accept their mere authority, nor receive 
their teaching, except in so far as it commends itself to our 
own sense of truth and duty. But as certainly as good taste 
will prize the works of Greek art, so will sound religious 
instincts set store by the New Testament writings, will find 
in them a fountain of welcome suggestions, and will look up 
to the writers as to men who in some respects stood nearer to 
the central Light than we do. 

One of the conclusions which follows, by steps needless to 
be reproduced here, from this mode of view, is that the 
Apostle Paul is to be regarded as the true originator of far 
the greater part of Christian doctrine. Not that he gave to 
it the full measure even of its New Testament development ; 
but where he came short, disciples trained in his school 
worked out his hints as the necessities of the times required, 
and embodied the results in writings which pass under the 
names of Paul, or of other apostles. The only important 
contribution independent of the Pauline influence, — but 
certainly a contribution that was most important, — is that 
embodied in the Gospel and Epistles ascribed to the Apostle 

The evidences produced in support of this theory, in so 

Lect. III.] NOTE B. 353 

far as they consist in critical details, shall not be adverted 
to in this place. The ex facie improbabilities which attach 
to it have not perhaps, even yet, been sufficiently considered. 
An essential part of all these theories is to transfer the 
authorship of many New Testament writings from the 
men whose name they bear, to unknown or conjectural 
persons of later date. Otherwise the development cannot 
be put plausibly into shape. With reference to this, it 
has been argued by the defenders of historical Christianity, 
that to palm off a writing of one's own, as that of another 
man, is an act which implies a low moral tone ; and that 
it is inconceivable that writings such as those in question, 
remarkable for their moral elevation and their moral heat, 
should have been produced by minds in that condition. 
The reply made to this obvious and very weighty argument 
is contained in the assertion, that the giving forth of a book 
under the name of some one, the general drift of whose 
views it was thought to represent advantageously, was not, in 
the second century, felt to be an injurious or objectionable 
deception ; it did not therefore imply the moral obtuseness 
which we are apt to associate with such an act ; and so 
the moral elevation of these writings does not preclude 
their composition by some one who assumed an apostle's 
name. This reply comes far short of what the case requires. 
All that it really goes to show, is that the conscious per- 
versity of the process supposed might be somewhat less 
than appears at first sight ; not that the process is com- 
patible with such a moral and spiritual tone as we find in 
the Scriptures. But even if it were conceded that the 
whole difficulty, so far as it is merely moral, were removed, 
other difficulties remain. 

A writer who assumes a name and character not his 
own, in the circumstances and for the ends supposed, is 
first of all a person anxious to bring authority to bear in 
behalf of some development, or mode, or variety of Chris- 
tianity, and some way of explaining and defending it which 
he prefers ; he wishes to place this safe under the shelter 
of a great name. In the next place, he is necessarily imita- 
tive, according to his lights, — more or less trying to com- 


354 NOTES. [Lect. III. 

pose what the great man might have written, more or less 
trying to keep out anything that would decisively indicate 
the true writer. On both accounts, — on account of the 
man's general attitude and design, and on account of the 
plan he takes to make it effectual, — mediocrity necessarily 
attaches to the performance. It turns out superficial, because 
the strenuous application of one's own whole strength to 
the mental problem is not the leading and guiding thought. 
It turns out artificial, because the performance is wrought 
out under constraint, and in an attitudinizing manner. Now 
look at the disputed Pauline Epistles. This rapid, sudden 
reasoning, this speaking from the vision of a whole of 
truth which underlies the particular utterances, this fire of 
moral energy which keeps conscience and intellect balanced 
and connected, — these are not the tokens of an anonymous 
partisan, who under cover of a borrowed name is trying to 
break down a dreaded or a detested theory. The attempt is 
indicated by anxious detail, careful arguing out of the ex- 
ternal and superficial elements of the case ; and, in short, 
flatness and littleness are stamped on the performance. 

Compare, for instance, the Epistle to the Colossians with 
such pseudonymous works as the Epistle of Barnabas and 
the Clementines. 

Note C. — Page 8^. 

These lectures keep in view doctrine. But it is worth 
while to note how the morality also, as to its great charac- 
teristic movements and tendencies, is ^rst in the history, 
and t/ien becomes a didactic lesson. As, for example, the 
peculiar spirit of Christian morality is love in meekness, 
forgetfulness of self, and fidelity to truth and right. But 
this is first embodied in the great fact of the Incarnation — 
the (TvyKKrdfBuaig, or condescension, as it was well called of 
old ; it is continually exemplified afresh in all steps of our 
Lord's history ; and lastly, it becomes a Christian lesson 
and a Christian attainment. There is much material of 
Christian evidence in such considerations. For if the 
Christian narrative had been planned by men to make a 

Lect. III.] NOTE F. 355 

foundation for their moral doctrine in this respect, the 
artificial character of it would have been too plain. The 
motive would have shown through the whole story, and 
would have appeared with awkward earnestness at every 
step of it. 

Note D. — Page 85. 

On the growth of knowledge and discernment in the mind 
of the apostles, and generally on the development of 
doctrine within the New Testament, see Bernard's Bampton 
Lecture, On the Progress of Doctrine,^ — a book full of strik- 
ing and suggestive matter, and eminently deserving to be 
read by Biblical students. 

Note E. — Page 90. 

Hence Duns Scotus argues for his own conception of 
Theology : — Non est inventa ad fugam ignorantiae, quia 
multo plura scibilia possent poni vel tradi in tanta quantitate 
doctrinae quam his tradita sint. Sed haec eadem replicantur 
frequenter, ut efficacius inducatur auditor ad operationem 
eorum quae ibi persuadentur. — In Sejtt. Prol. qu. iv. 42, 

Note F. — Page 93. 

It is an inquiry very interesting in its own place, and not 
without a practical bearing on expository purposes, how far 
the sacred writers are to be conceived as handling, while 
they write, resources of which they had conscious possession, 
and applying these to purposes of instruction and impression 
which they clearly discerned, — wielding means as adapted to 
ends, and proceeding on a perception of the adaptation of the 
one to the other ; and how far, in addition to this, they might 
be conceived as led out into statements which rose in their 
minds, wider than their previous thought, and having bear- 
1 Macmillan & Co., 1864. 

356 NOTES. [Lect. III. 

ings and applications beyond the horizon of their designs. 
Both conceptions are consistent with the behef in the supreme 
and certain guidance of the inspiring Spirit. The former of 
the two must at any rate have place ; the only question is, 
whether it accounts for everything, and whether the latter is 
to be wholly excluded and disregarded. What is said in the 
text is, that questions of this kind, however interesting, do 
not concern my present purpose. For if it be once admitted 
or established that the Divine Spirit is securing and regulat- 
ing the communication, then His wisdom is the source from 
which the supply required is provided, whatever the economy 
may be which arranges the channels and measures the flow of 
the stream. 

There may, on various accounts, be difficulty in applying 
a theory of Inspiration to all the passages of the New Tes- 
tament, or to all the phenomena which it presents. Such 
difficulties are to be expected. They might in all reason be 
reckoned on beforehand. But the efforts made to show that 
the New Testament is not inspired, — i.e., which is the same 
thing, that the writings it contains are due merely to the 
influences which operate in the minds of religious men at any 
great crisis of religious history, — all such efforts may be set 
down as labour thrown away. On the mind of each genera- 
tion of Christians these writings impress their claims with an 
evidence which outlives all objections. 

Note G. — Page 98. 

The characteristic of Scripture teaching, and of the 
materials which it applies, here referred to, goes a long way 
towards explaining the strong feeling always cherished in the 
Church of an explicit consent and unity in the teaching, not- 
withstanding the fact that in some respects very considerable 
changes unquestionably took place. See, for fuller remarks. 
Note K to Lecture V. 

Lect. III.] NOTE H. 357 

Note H. — Page 99. 

Looking to the unsystematic character of the Scriptures, 
and noting how little its method seems fitted to the exigencies 
of school discipline or doctrinal drill, it has been maintained 
that in the earliest age, in the days of the apostles themselves, 
there must have been in use catechetical formularies, designed 
to lay the foundations of Christian knowledge. We are to 
conceive of these as quite different in structure from any of 
the Biblical writings ; rather as analogous to our summaries, 
catechisms, or brief systems. It has been argued that such 
statements of doctrine were indispensable for the purpose of 
describing the faith compendiously to inquirers, and for the 
purpose of instructing the young. And we must suppose 
them to have represented the essential and fundamental 
Christian instruction, to which the New Testament writings 
were related, as on the one hand a repertory of more minute 
and lively historical detail, on the other hand of more free 
and various discussions, doctrinal or ethical, such as were 
suggested by the occasional exigencies of the nascent Church. 

On the assumed existence of these compendiums, compact 
but complete, of which the New Testament gives us no 
hint (or at m.ost only allusions which are obscurely capable 
of being interpreted in this reference), but which must be 
supposed to have accompanied or even preceded it, different 
conclusions have been based. It has been argued, for instance, 
that this early, this more definite and connected teaching, 
presupposed and proceeded on in the somewhat fortuitous 
collection of writings which we call the New Testament, 
must be conceived to be the starting-point of Ecclesiastical 
Tradition. Some such tradition ought therefore to be re- 
garded as having legitimate independent authority. The 
very fact that these catechetical formulas, forming so im- 
portant an element of early teaching, were providentially left 
to the Church to constitute and to authenticate, serves, it is 
said, as a proof that the Church was intended to be reverenced 
as an authoritative teacher. The vague and manifold tra- 
ditions of Rome may comprehend much spurious accretion. 
But a tradition in the Church, not dependent on the Scrip- 

358 NOTES. [Lect. III. 

tures, although in harmony with them, should be sought for 
and reverenced.^ 

On the other hand, starting from the same assumption, it 
has been ingeniously argued that no one formulary of the 
nature of Catechism or Creed was intended to be perma- 
nently imposed, or to attain unconditional authority. Had 
this been intended, some of these early forms of sound words 
would have received apostolic sanction, and would have been 
received into the canon. But no one Catechism and no one 
Creed would suffice for all ages. The Church was intended 
to produce such documents, using as best she could the lights 
which she possessed, in the measure and in the form which 
each age required.^ 

But, in truth, there is no reason to suppose that any such 
summaries existed, exhibiting a form of teaching contradis- 
tinguished from the method of the Scriptures, in the way 
which these writers would have us believe. It is, indeed, 
quite true that the office of the Church has from the first 
been required, and been discharged. There never was a 
period in which God has not made use of tradition {i.e. 
of Christian intelligence and feeling, existing in believing 
minds, and coming out in all the natural forms of manifesta- 
tion) for the purpose of influencing neophytes, and helping 
them to discern both the general scope of Christianity, and 
the elements in it which claim primary regard by reason of 
their primary importance. In particular. Christian teaching 
must have been summarized, of course, as often as, for any 
reason, it was briefly exhibited ; and so, whether there were 
any written summaries intended for that especial purpose or 
not, many a spoken summary must have been uttered. But 
these summaries may well have been perfectly conformable 
to the manner of presentation which the Scriptures on the 

' Hawkins' Bampton Lecture, I.ond. 1841. Dr. Hawkins made application 
of his postulate cautiously and temperately. In particular, he denied this 
tradition to be authoritative in any strict or complete sense. The whole book, 
indeed, is written in a considerate and circumspect manner. Readers of New- 
man's Apologia will remember how Dr. Hawkins taught him the office of the 
Church one day during ' a walk -round Christ Church meadows. ' Transplanted 
to such fertile soil, the seed grew rapidly. 

'' Whately, Peculiarities of the Christian Religion, Essay VI. 

Lect. III.] NOTE H. 359 

whole exhibit. The apostles taught, no doubt, as they 
wrote, and those who followed them kept their steps as 
nearly as they could. In particular, we have good reason 
to think that any early summarizings would be threaded on 
a historical rather than on a doctrinal string. They would 
briefly recapitulate the history of redemption, past and 
future, with brief indications of the bearing and results of its 
several steps, and with a statement of the obligations of re- 
pentance, faith, and Christian obedience. And if they went 
into detail at all, it was probably in the way of dilating 
either, on the one hand, on the history of Christ, or, on the 
other hand, on the practical duties of redeemed men. Then 
as time went on, and heresies arose, this point and that would 
receive a sharpening and an emphasizing, to guard the cate- 
chumen against the erroneous teaching. A certain amplifi- 
cation of statement, and a certain increase of precision and 
of definition, might thus take place. But it would take place 
then, as it takes place still, by drawing on the materials of 
the apostolic teaching, such as we have them, and applying 
them to the exigency as we apply them. There is no reason 
to suppose, far less to assume as certain, that any form 
of teaching existed in the apostolic Church which was of 
divine authority, which constituted a divinely instituted dis- 
cipline for some classes of minds, and which is yet unrepre- 
sented in the New Testament writings. What is thus main- 
tained may be objected to as conjectural ; but it is sufficient to 
meet the conjectural assumption on the other side. And it 
is the more probable conjecture. It agrees with all that we 
can gather from the New Testam.ent, and from subsequent 

It agrees with the impression made on our minds by such 
passages as i Cor. xv. i-ii, and Heb. vi. i, 2, in reference to 
the way in which it was, at that date, natural and suitable to 
state summarily the evangelical teaching. 

It aerees with the character and structure of the so-called 
Apostles' Creed, which may be taken as a specimen, not 
greatly altered, of the early forms of baptismal confession. 
.Answerably to the words of institution (Matt, xxviii. 19), it is 
a confession of the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 

36o NOTES. [Lect III. 

But this confession is made very suitably to fall into the 
track of the history of redemption. The life, death, resur- 
rection, and ascension of our Lord lead on to a confession of 
the Holy Ghost (which manifestly has respect to the mani- 
festation at Pentecost), the calling and upbuilding of the 
Church, and the preaching of the forgiveness of sins. 

It agrees also with what is suggested by the post-apostolic 
literature. This is a wide field to enter on in a note, but 
what seems to be of moment may be stated as follows : — 

1. The earliest writings in w^iich one might expect to see 
traces of the influence of the supposed form of Christian 
teaching, if it then existed, show no trace of it ; such are the 
writings of Clement and Polycarp, and, I may add, the treatise 
ascribed to Barnabas. Still more to the point, perhaps, is 
the Epistle to Diognetus, inasmuch as it contains an animated 
account of Christianity, intended for an intelligent person 
who was not a Christian. There is nothing in these writings 
but what might naturally be suggested by the New Testa- 
ment writings, or by a current }c7]pv'yfjba, w^hich kept as near 
as it could to the same type. I will refer to Ignatius sepa- 

2. After the Gnostic heresies were full-blown, and when the 
Monarchian heresies were appearing, it becomes customary to 
refer to the regtila fidei, the ecdcsiasticce prczdicatio. We have, 
as is well known, statements of what it was, from Irenaeus, 
Tertullian, and Origen,^ not to speak of Novatian, and re- 
ferences by Clemens Alexandrinus and others. From their 
accounts, nothing is more evident than this, that it was not, 
in any of the churches, a written or settled formula. They 
give, in different ways, their conception of what might fairly 
be regarded as accepted and prevailing teaching in the 
churches. Each gives to it a development suited to the occa- 
sion fo-r which he adduces it, sharpening the statements on 
the points in reference to which heresy was to be encountered. 
It is far from unlikely that in the churches generally such 
more precise and definite statements had been brought out 
and rendered current in the teaching by the progress of 

^ Iren. Adv. Hard. i. lo. i and 2 ; c. iii. 4. i and 2. Tert. De Velajidis Vir- 
ginibus, c. i. ; De Prascr. Hcsr. 13 and 14. Orig. De Princ. I., Praif. 

lect. hi.] note h. 361 

heresy. But there is nothing whatever to suggest that they 
are drawn from primitive catechetical sources, rather than 
from Christian meditation guided by apostolic teaching sucJl 
as the New Testament presents, and quickened by collision 
with antichristian error. 

If there was any very early catechetical summary which 
assumed a tolerably set form, besides the confession of 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one might be tempted to find 
traces of it in a context which refers not to dogma, but to 
Christian morals. I refer to the description of the two ohoi, 
Barn. Ep. xviii. xx. It has been observed that the style 
alters, and becomes simpler and clearer in the latter part of 
the Epistle. This cannot, for known reasons, be accounted 
for on the ground of that portion being spurious ; but it may 
be accounted for, if the author at that point begins to work 
over ground that had been cleared before. The same con- 
text in substance reappears, a good deal amplified, in the 
Apostolic Constitutions, vii. i sq.^ Probably the author of the 
Epistle, if he found anything of this kind pre-existing, 
wrought upon it as freely as the author of the seventh book 
of the Constitutions did afterwards. However this may be, 
the performance is a cento of maxims from the apostolic 
teaching and the earlier Scriptures, with amplifications by 
the collector. It proves nothing as to independent sum- 

With respect to Ignatius, the difficulty as to the authen- 
ticity of his writings, and the text to be preferred, has first 
to be encountered. I confess to feeling a great deal of diffi- 
culty as to all the three texts, and am far from feeling 
positive as to the account to be given of the origin and 
history of any of them. The shorter Greek still retains the 
majority of suffrages, and may therefore be referred to. The 
point in hand at present is its doctrinal teaching. There is 
an interesting article on this subject by Dr. Newman, origin- 
ally written in 1838, reprinted in the first volume of Essays 
Critical and Historical.^ He there picks out and argues 
from the precise dogmatic statements which the Epistles 

' And in the Coptic Canons, Book I. 
^ London, Pickering, 1871. 

362 NOTES. [Lect. III. 

contain, and compares them with those which occur in writ- 
ings of the fourth century. I confess that the effect on my 
mind is only to increase the feehng of the absolute singularity 
of these epistles, if they are to be accepted as a literary phe- 
nomenon of the opening graces of the second century. It is 
a very suspicious singularity. 

Waiving the critical difficulty, and assuming the shorter 
Greek text as authoritative, we find in it a good deal of in- 
teresting and precise dogmatic statement especially regarding 
the person of our Lord. But it does not naturally suggest 
the idea of having originated in any catechetic summary. It 
suggests rather the disquisitions of lively and devout minds 
in Christian discourse and preaching, and in controversy, 
leading to various forms of emphatic and illustrative exhibi- 
tion of the great fact of the Incarnation. 


Note A.— Page io8. 

It may be as well to make a distinction, sufficient for practi- 
cal purposes, between Truth of Doctrine and Truth of Fact. 
Sometimes those who desire to diminish the quantimi of 
doctrine to be recognised in the Scriptures, lay it down that 
the Scriptures give us facts, while we spin doctrines for our- 
selves ; and to make this out, they give the name of ' Facts ' 
to whatever the Scripture affirms as truth concerning God, 
man, and so forth. But this is to make unjustifiable con- 
fusion. Although doctrine and fact run into one another, — 
the incarnation, e.g., being both fact and doctrine, — it remains 
true that a great deal in the Scripture has the nature and 
attributes of doctrine, and for human minds must rank in 
that category. Probably the distinction may be most con- 
veniently taken, by ranking as mere facts all those things 
entering into revealed religion which might have become 
known to us through ordinary historical channels. In reality, 
many of them are known to us through Scripture only, and 
the accounts come to us authoritatively. But in so far as 
they might conceivably have been known in human experi- 
ence and recorded by human testimony, they may rank as 
mere facts. That, on the other hand, which could be made 
known to us only by divine testimony, goes beyond fact, 
and becomes doctrine. Thus, that a certain child was born 
at Bethlehem, grew to manhood, performed such and such 
remarkable works, is fact ; that He was the Son of God 
(which no doubt is a fact) is also doctrine. That He died 
upon a cross is fact ; that that death was for our sins is 
doctrine. If the distinction is thought not well taken, I 
should not take the trouble of defending it. It is enough to 
have indicated that the two distinguishable and distinct 
provinces meet there or thereabouts. 

364 NOTES. [Lect. IV. 

Note B. — Page 133. 

Christian feeling, or what is postulated by Christian ex- 
perience, — this has constituted a great force in the whole 
history of Christian doctrine, and has powerfully moulded 
the form of many a system. It has. an excellent right to 
operate in this way, — in so far, namely, as it is one of the con- 
ditions on which a true intelligence of the Scriptures depends ; 
and it must enter as an element into all real contemplation 
of Christian verities. Yet no task would be more difficult 
than to assign the measure of the influence which it ought 
to exert, or of that which in given instances it has exerted. 
It is one of the interesting peculiarities of Schleiermacher's 
Glaiibenslehre, that he consecrates this element to be the 
foundation and the principle of his whole system. The 
Christian consciousness, according to him, spins its dogmatic 
out of its resources ; or rather, it is necessitated to postulate 
it by its own connatural cravings. Exaggerated as this is, 
and lamentably defective also both in principle and result, it 
is in the highest degree suggestive. In systems quite remote 
from Schleiermacher's, the active force which sustains many 
a dogma is not so much the texts and arguments appealed 
to on its behalf, but rather the congruity in which it is ap- 
prehended to stand to modes of Christian disposition and 
devotion, which have, or are thought to have, their witness 
in themselves. It is a tact or taste, a sense rather than a 
perception, that is the organ practically applied to dis- 
criminate false and true by many who suppose themselves 
to proceed on strict and definite principle. And probably 
they judge much more soundly on the former method than 
they would on the latter. 

Note C— Page 138. 

In asserting the sufficiency and perfection (for its designed 
end) of Scripture, there has sometimes been a tendency on 
the part of Protestants to give forth representations in which 
the office of the Church, i.e. of the Christian community, in 

Lect. IV.] NOTE D. 365 

perpetuating and reproducing- Christian sentiment and belief, 
is not taken account of. This opens the door to Romanists, 
who at once rejoin with an appeal to the undeniable fact that 
men are very greatly dependent on their fellows for instruc- 
tion and impression, and who assume that the necessities 
of the Protestant argument require these facts to be over- 
looked. Dr. Hawkins, in his Bampton Lecture, has criticised 
such controversialists as Stillingfleet and Tillotson on this 
ground. In Note H to Lecture IIL, supra, reference was 
made to some views of Dr. Hawkins in this connection, from 
which I dissent. But he (along with many others — Whately 
may be named) has very well pointed out that the office of 
the Church is a great providential force, which was of course 
contemplated in the divine arrangements, and which ought to 
be taken account of in any theory we form of the process by 
which His truth reaches and influences our minds. There 
ought to be no difficulty, on Protestant principles, in recog- 
nising the fact, that while the Scriptures are the infallible 
rule, we depend on one another in many ways for an 
acquaintance with its contents and meaning; in particular, 
that the organized Christian community practically admini- 
sters the Scripture teaching to its members, and has been 
fitted to do so advantageously on the whole. Thus every 
child is dependent on parents and teachers for a report of 
what the Scripture teaches ; and many a grown-up person 
is in a condition of pupilage with reference to one depart- 
ment or other of his Christian training. He sees largely 
through other people's eyes. Nevertheless the office of the 
Church is to manifest what is in the inspired Rule ; and so 
doing, and when she does so, and when those taught refer 
what they learn ultimately to that standard, then truth, and 
evidence of the divine original of the truth, will shine into 
individual minds in the measure needed by each. 

Note D.— Page 152. 

On the subject of Analogy as related to the truths and the 
language of Religion, besides the works of Butler and Bishop 

366 NOTES. [Lect. IV. 

Browne and Archbishop King, see Tatham's Chart and Scale 
of TriitJi, Davison's Discourses oji Prophecy (Notes), Grin- 
field's VindicicB AnalogiccB, Copleston's Inquiry concerning 
Predestination, Whately's Bampton Lecture, and more re- 
cently Dr. James Buchanan's Analogy a Gnide to Truth and 
an Aid to Faith. In the last-named work, p. 7 sq., will be 
found a brief sketch of the controversy on the subject of the 
application of analogical language to God and to God's 

Note E. — Page 165. 

The Monothelete could say, with great plausibility, to the 
Catholic, ' If, while holding the continued existence of two 
natures in Christ, you really hold the unity of the person, 
you must admit the two natures to be so united as to imply 
only one single will and operation. If there is but one per- 
son, then in each act of our Lord's there is but one agent. 
The person is the agent. But if there is but one agent, you 
must hold one will, and one entire, undivided, conscious, and 
voluntary energy of the whole attributes of the person ; one 
operation, as by a single impulse of all the complex capa- 
cities and powers which pertain to Him, whether as divine or 
as human. Otherwise you have two agencies, therefore two 
agents, therefore two persons. Personality, if it be really one, 
implies unity of the whole movement, whatever natures, one 
or more, are drawn into the sphere of it, and lend their 
capacities or attributes to the result.' 

On the principles common to both parties, this was tanta- 
mount to an assertion that there is to be recognised in Christ 
the divine will only, and no other. If His human nature 
in any way has a faculty or capacity of human willing, it is 
superseded or drawn into the current of the divine will, so as 
to have no proper exercise or egress. 

Note F. — Page 167. 

The theory of Phlogiston was once a probable theory in 
chemistry, and conclusions were built on it. But the true 

Lect. IV.] NOTE G. , 367 

view turned out to be a different one. That theory might 
not be wholly misleading, in practice, in so far as it gathered 
together some important experimental facts, and held them 
together by a provisional tie. But treated as a source of 
inference, it could only breed errors. 

Note G. — Page 169. 

I have thought it better to relegate this topic to a Note, 
rather than load the conclusion of a Lecture, already too 
long ; for such a subject, if introduced, could scarcely be 
lightly dismissed. It may appear, indeed, that it should have 
come prominently forward at a much earlier stage, and that 
a lecture on Doctrine leaves out the part of Hamlet, if it 
omits to treat expressly of Scientific Theology, its validity 
and its office. All that shall be said in defence of the course 
pursued is simply this. Doctrine is maintained to arise not 
primarily in obedience to the scientific interest or impulse, 
but out of the necessities of the believing mind. It appeared 
to be important to contemplate it steadily under that leading 
consideration, and to inquire simply into the indispensable 
or the legitimate workings of the believing mind in this de- 
partment. But, this line once adopted, it became necessary 
to decline introducing the considerations connected with the 
other topic, in order that the treatment might not become 
too complicated. It is admitted, however, that in a full and 
leisurely treatment, a separate Lecture on the subject of this 
Note ought to have place. 

Christian Doctrines, if they are articles of knowledge, must 
be objects of science in some way. And if they have any 
rational connection with one another, that can be discerned, 
they may properly be the object of a special department of 
science. Moreover, as soon as Doctrine began to be handled 
by inquisitive and intelligent minds, a form began to be im- 
parted to it, and processes began to be carried on with respect 
to it, which were, in their way, contributions to scientific 
treatment, or a preparation for it. Still more was this done 
when active controversy began ; for controversy on such 

368 NOTES. [Lect. IV. 

topics must necessarily lead to sifting of evidence, to exact- 
ness of statement, to indication of connections. The efforts 
put forth were pro tanto, in point of fact, efforts to comply 
with the requirements of science. This is not to assert that 
they were scientifically successful. They might be, or they 
might not. Neither is it asserted that these efforts were 
made with a conscious or deliberate intention to satisfy the 
scientific interest. On the contrary, that was very often 
hardly at all in view, or at all events was not kept in view 
with any seriousness or persistency. Other ends, connected 
with more profound and pressing wants, were aimed at ; viz., 
to settle what God had given to be believed on leading points, 
and to guide aright the souls of men. The objects of the 
early Alexandrian school, indeed, dictated a professed and 
express regard to scientific principle in conducting their 
labours. To treat doctrine so as to make it comply, or to 
show that it complies, with philosophy, so far as philosophy 
is valid, was their design. Their notions of what scientific 
treatment ought to be in a subject-matter of this kind were 
for the most part extremely loose and vague ; but, at any 
rate, they suggested the problem. Speaking generally, how- 
ever, it is rather remarkable how little tendency appears 
among the Fathers to be drawn or swayed, in the form of 
their work, by any exigencies of scientific method. Such 
exemplifications of scientific method, and specimens of its 
results, as they furnish, arise merely because vigorous minds, 
working at high tension in matters which deeply interest 
them, do comply with those demands for investigation, de- 
finition, arrangement, and so forth, which science is supposed 
to present in a complete and rigorous manner. But the 
Fathers were thinking mainly of what appeared to them to 
be the great Christian interests ; and any aptitudes for 
scientific treatment which they possessed, they merely bring 
in for occasional service, to clear the road to some practical 
object, or to build an argument in behalf of some point of the 
faith that is impeached. It may probably be said, that 
Augustine showed more than most of them of the peculiar 
style of query and of suggestion which tends to careful cor- 
relation of Reason and Faith, and also to awaken a craving 

Lect. IV.] NOTE G. 369 

for system and internal order in connecting and unfolding 
theological thought. But it was the internal necessity of the 
great controversies, rather than any special design on the part 
of individuals, that introduced into some departments of 
Theology a considerable degree of minute and careful adjust- 
ment. The form of teaching so settled either was scientific, 
or at least manifestly challenged a verdict with reference to 
its scientific form, as well as with reference to its agreement 
with the rule of faith. So we may describe the result reached 
in the case of the doctrines of the Trinity, and of the Person 
of Christ, and partly also in the case of the doctrines involved 
in the Pelagian controversy. 

It was the schoolmen who took up in earnest the whole 
question as to the relations of Reason and Faith, and strove 
to present theology as a rounded whole of ordered thought. 
John Damascenus need not to be regarded as an exception 
to this statement. Anselm was the great forerunner of the 
scholastic enterprise. And his name may serve to remind us, 
that whatever failures of spirit or of performance befell the 
schoolmen, their work in its origin was inspired by a mag- 
nanimous and grand thought. The great awakening of the 
European mind, under the leadership of the Church, sug- 
gested to the thinker the idea of a glorious whole, or king- 
dom of Truth, pervious to the Reason that is prepared by 
Faith ; just as to the practical man it suggested the idea of a 
kingdom of God in the world, orderly and beneficent, in con- 
stituting and perfecting which the Vicar of Christ should be 
the chief agent. The scholastic enterprise was an attempt to 
set up that kingdom. It failed, indeed ; and the grandeur of 
the conception turned out to be like the grandeur of a child's 
thoughts, which take no adequate account of means and 
possibilities. But ever since then, the idea of Theology as a 
science has been far more powerfully and constantly present 
to the contemplations of divines. 

It would serve no purpose here to recount the origin and 
progress of the various subsequent schools ; the Romish, as 
reconstructed on the lines of Trent ; the Lutheran and the 
Reformed Orthodoxies ; the Socinian system ; and after- 
wards the Arminian. It may be as well to remark, however, 

*2 A 

370 NOTES. [Lect. IV. 

that none of these, as schools, can be said to have taken up 
the enterprise of achieving a complete speculative system, 
and none are chargeable with all the audacity and extrava- 
gance with which that enterprise usually is attended. Indi- 
vidual theologians might make speculative ventures ; and 
each school was charged by the others with a perverse bias 
in framing its system, and moulding its materials with a view 
to lend strength to some favourite doctrines. But all, it may 
be said, that any of these schools proposed to do, was to de- 
termine and arrange a body of materials which they accepted 
as given. The Romanists professed to find their materials in 
Scripture and Tradition ; the other schools in Scripture, ad- 
mitting Reason, or what went by that name, in different 
degrees, to act upon the process, either simply as interpreta- 
tive, or partly also as dominating and limiting. The system- 
makers of these schools did press into questions on which no 
satisfactory guidance was furnished by the sources on which 
they relied. But they commonly did so under the influence, 
not of a speculative, but rather of a controversial temptation. 
The differences on leading points were carried over inferen- 
tially into metaphysical regions. Doctrines that were defended 
had to be accommodated to received views of God and of the 
world ; and consistency seemed to require the accommoda- 
tion to be made in one way for one system, in another way 
for another. Positions were taken up, therefore, which 
merely indicated how a man who held the main doctrines of 
a given system would be apt to extend and connect his 
thinking. They merely constituted illustrations of the drift 
and genius of each theology. But controversial exigencies 
made it desirable to treat them as substantial doctrines, and 
to contrive some show of separate and independent authority 
for them, that they might buttress more securely the system 
to which they were attached. 

Subsequently, the chief influence which has affected sys- 
tematic theology has been the doubt, or more than doubt, 
with respect to the divine authority of the Scriptures, which 
has wrought in so many forms during the last hundred and 
forty years. The first effect was to dispose men to fall back 
on the elements of the Christian system which seemed most 

Lect. IV.] NOTE G. 371 

capable of being verified to each individual mind, — in short, 
to be very cautious as to carrying Christian assertions much 
beyond the border line of Natural Theology. Then came 
systems in which Christian Doctrine is treated simply as so 
much speculative material, which must stand, like other 
speculation, on its merits, i.e. on its probability, as an ac- 
count of our relations to God. Other systems proposed to 
regain a Christian position, without relying on authentic 
divine information. Such was Schleiermacher's ; but as he 
.threw Dogmatic into Historical Theology, as a branch of it, he 
deprived it of independent value. Others still, while assert- 
ing a positive value and authority for the teaching contained 
in the New Testament, make it fall into the compartments of 
a system radically speculative. It is a philosophy of divine 
things, in which they find room for their interpretation of 
New Testament teaching. 

From the point of view of these Lectures, no systematizing 
can be recognised as valid which does not proceed on the 
assumption of the complete authority of Scripture teaching. 
That supposed, systematic theology must be recognised as 
one form of the tribute which human minds owe to truth. 
No one can deny me the right to analyze the contents of the 
religious ideas which I am authorized to entertain, to trace 
their limits, to mark the connections in which they stand to 
one another. To extend this process over the whole field 
of revealed truth, is as legitimate as to apply it to any part. 
The process certainly will take place, in virtue of the consti- 
tution of human minds, in a partial way, or in a half-con- 
scious way, i.e. without adverting fully to the responsibilities 
involved in it. It is better that it should be gone about with 
a deliberate and definite aim, and in full view of the condi- 
tions under which the work must proceed. At the same 
time, while the partial and half-conscious systematizings have 
their own dangers and temptations, there are others which 
undoubtedly are attendant on the deliberate aim and effort 
of the systematic theologian. 

His ofhce is to do justice to revealed truths as regards 
their capabilities for being defined, connected, and presented 
in an order in which the mutual connection and common 

372 NOTES. [Lect. IV. 

reason of the whole shall be as much as possible apparent. 
And his temptation is to overdo his work. 

First, as regards individual truths (which he is to link on 
to others before and behind), he is apt to assume a precision 
of knowledge, and to employ a precision of definition, which 
are not duly warranted. The language of Scripture itself 
furnishes us on many subjects with information which is, 
and was designed to be, approximate rather than pre- 
cise. The language of the Church, expressing her conclu- 
sions from Scripture, her well-warranted conclusions, ought 
notwithstanding to be regarded, in many cases, rather as 
indicating the line that must be taken in order to escape 
erroneous tendencies of thought, than as delivering a mean- 
ing which the words are adequate to fix and measure. The 
history of the words employed in the first great controversy, 
such as ovGicx, and v'Troaraaig, illustrates this. In both cases 
the systematic theologian may be tempted to press upon 
the words of Scripture, or of received belief, in order to fix 
on the truths he handles a greater precision of form, with 
a view to more dexterous and plausible articulation of his 

Secondly, in exhibiting the connection of truth with 
truth, there is, of course, a temptation to apply pressure to 
truths, or to take one-sided views of them, in order to bring 
out connections which serve the purposes of the system, or 
to escape difficulties on which the system might be ship- 
wrecked. And in virtue of a like influence, it comes to pass 
that, when the spirit of system prevails strongly, truths are 
unconsciously transformed to some extent as to their mean- 
ing, and their bearing on men, by being always presented 
in their systematic and not in their Biblical connections. 
The significance they have for the system, as contributing to 
its harmony and unity, is the only significance which they 
are allowed to reveal. But even in a well-ordered system, 
if it be a human one, — and all our systems are human, — the 
significance which the truth has for the system is less than 
its full and genuine significance. 

For example. Dr. Cunningham {Hist. TJieol. i. 344, 352) 
remarks that there is a great systematic connection between 

Lect. IV.] NOTE G. 373 

the topics of original sin, saving grace, and election to life ; 
which connection, from the Augustinian point of view, is 
brought out by the assertion of man's entire depravity, — 
which may be looked on as the link between the doctrine 
of original sin and that of the necessity of grace, — and by 
the assertion of the certain efficacy of saving grace, as the 
link between the doctrine of grace and that of personal 
election. Those who hold with Calvin, recognise the con- 
nection thus asserted ; and those who do not, will at least 
acknowledge the systematic strength and coherence of the 
line of positions exhibited. But even those who belong to 
the former party need not hesitate to acknowledge that the 
controversial assertion of this system, during and after the 
Arminian controversy, formed a habit of undue and exclusive 
regard to the systematic value of each member in this chain 
of positions, and tended to intercept the full impression of 
the Biblical connection and setting in which assertions bear- 
ing on these subjects come before us in the Scriptures. 

Thirdly, it may be said that the ideal goal of the systema- 
tist, as such, is completeness ; his enthusiasm would aspire 
naturally to the perfect order of a perfect knowledge. All 
■the more difficult it is to keep in view what ought to be the 
practical goal, viz. to trace (so far as evidence enables us) 
the incompletely discerned order of an imperfect knowledge ; 
setting forth not less, yet also not more, than God has been 
pleased to give us. Here incompleteness, i.e. the befitting 
incompleteness which the nature of our knowledge implies, 
ought to be deliberately aimed at. But the power of halting 
at the right point is one of the rarest powers even of clear- 
siehted and truthful minds. 


Note A. — Page 175. 
See Note D to Lecture IIL, supra. 

Note B. — Page 179. 

See, on this subject, the Magdeburg Centuriators, Prae- 
fatio in Historiam Ecclesiasticam, etc.^ The assumption is, 
that the Church started with the Lutheran teaching ; then 
in each succeeding period we have these elements : first, the 
doctrina ecdesiae, or doctrina sacra ; second, an mclinatio 
doctrinae, or a manifestation of pcculiares et incommodae 
opiniones, stipulae ct errores doctorwn. These, however, are 
not haereses ; they are not, indeed, merely inibecillitates 
communes, but worse than that — turpissimi opinionum et 
corriiptelarnm naevi. Still they affect the views of men 
who must not be called heretics. Thirdly, we have the 
haereses, proceeding from various quarters. 

The whole Protestant churches with one consent recognised 
in even the most ancient teachers traces of infirmity. Their 
teaching was not only subject to be tested by that of the 
Scriptures, but was plainly enough marked one way or other 
by tokens of human proclivity to error. But these infirmities 
Avere conceived either as simply sporadic and occasional, — one 
man falling into this mistake, and another into that, — or else, 
more frequently, as the starting-point of the great develop- 
ment of error, which was the development that especially 
exercised the Protestant mind. 

Note C. — Page 180. 
Unless room is made in the mind for the idea that the 

' Ecclesiastica Historia, etc. Basil. 1560-74, vol. i. 

Lect. v.] note D. 375 

Church under new circumstances, and under the influence of 
a progressive discipline, may attain to further insight into 
the Scriptures, there is great plausibiHty in maintaining that 
all Christian doctrine may be gathered from the writings of 
the first five centuries. If God cared for His Church, and 
fulfilled the promises to her, it is plausible to say that all 
that is essential in Christian doctrine, all that is entitled ever 
to be treated as important, must have been present in the 
Church, and may be gathered from the writings, of the first 
five centuries. But the plausibility disappears if we make 
room in our minds for these positions : first, that fresh 
views of the Scripture teaching on important points may 
be attained by the Church under the influence of a pro- 
gressive discipline ; and secondly, that with reference to new 
questions and new alternatives, pressed on the Church's mind 
with a stringency not felt in her earlier experience, these 
views may acquire an importance, i.e. the explicit recognition 
of them may acquire an importance, which the later age of 
the Church legitimately feels, but which the earlier age could 
not anticipate. 

To this extent it is reasonable, in my opinion, to acknow- 
ledge the force of the argument urged by Newman in the 
Apologia and elsewhere, from the successive creeds of the 
early Church. Adherents of those creeds, who draw the 
line there, have to answer the question why just those creeds 
should be thought to comprehend all that the Church ever 
may confess. Why may not the Church in later times 
legitimately confess more, for reasons analogous to those on 
account of which the early Church confessed so much .'' 

Note D. — Page i8i. 

* All varieties of real development,^ so far as this argu- 
ment is concerned, may probably be reduced to two general 
heads — intellectual developments, and practical developments 
of Christian doctrine.' The former alone concern us. ' By 
" intellectual developments " I understand logical inferences 
^ Archer Butler, Letters on Development. Dublin, 1850, p. 56. 

2,7^ NOTES. [Lect. V. 

(and that whether for behef or for practical discipline) from 
doctrines, or from the comparison of doctrines, which, in virtue 
of the great dialectical maxim, must be true, if legitimately 
deduced from what is true. . . . Intellectual developments, it 
is thus obvious, are in the same sphere with the principles 
out of which they spring ; they are (even when regarded with 
a view to rite and practice) unmixed doctrine still — they are 
propositions. . . . Let me exemplify. . . . Revealed doctrines 
may be compared with one another, or with the doctrines of 
natural religion ; or the consequences of revealed doctrines 
may be compared with other doctrines, or wuth their con- 
sequences, and so on in great variety : the combined ultimate 
result being what is called a System of Theology. What the 
first principles of Christian truth really are, or how obtained, 
is not now the question. But in all cases equally, no doctrine 
has any claim whatever to be received as obligatory on belief, 
unless it be either itself some duly authorized principle, or a 
logical deduction, through whatever number of stages, from 
some such principle of religion. Such only are legitimate de- 
velopments of doctrine for the belief of man ; and such alone 
can the Church of Christ — the Witness and Conservator of His 
truth — ^justly commend to the consciences of her members. 

' To take one or two examples that present themselves at 
the first moment : it is thus that when we have learned, as 
the infallible authority of inspiration, that the Lord Jesus 
Christ is Himself very God, and when we have learned from 
the same authority the tremendous fact of His atoning 
sacrifice, we could collect (even were Scripture silent) the 
priceless value of the atonement thus made, the wondrous 
humiliation therein involved, the unspeakable love it exhibited, 
the mysteriously awful gnilt of sin, which would again reflect 
a gloomy light upon the equally mysterious eternity oi pnnisJi- 
rnent, and similar deductions of immense practical importance. 
These would be just and legitimate developments of Christian 
doctrine. But in truth, as our own liability to error is ex- 
treme, especially when immersed in the holy obscurity (" the 
cloud on the mercy-seat ") of such mysteries as these, we 
have reason to thank God that there appear to be few doc- 
trinal developments of any importance which are not from 

Lect. v.] note D. 377 

the first drawn out and delivered as divine authority to our 

' Or, again, to take another instance. . . . When three 
Beings are, on divine authority, represented as acting with 
my.sterious but real distinctness of operation, yet each pos- 
sessing the attributes of Supreme Godhead, — that Godhead 
which is and can be but one, — we can scarcely be said to 
" develope ; " we do little more than express these combined 
truths, when we acknowledge, and bend in adoration before, 
the ever blessed Trinity. And we can easily perceive that 
wherever or whenever there may have been, or is, any diffi- 
culty in arriving at this truth, it is not, as if in the nature of 
things this truth could be had only by long processes of con- 
jecture and slow successive contemplation — it is not as if, 
after it had been revealed in Holy Writ, men miist err and 
stumble on the road to receive it, and pass through a dis- 
cipline of centuries before they can arrive at admitting that 
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God ; but simply from 
the fact (granting for a moment any such supposed or im- 
puted charge of error) that the numerous and melancholy 
causes that impede the perception of valuable truth in so 
many other departments of human knowledge, may be con- 
ceived more or less to have operated in this, incomparably 
the most precious of all.' 

As another illustration is adduced, the inference from the 
fact of our Lord's birth from the Virgin, that she is, and 
ought to be called, blessed. 

' I have thus instanced ^ what may exemplify legitimate 
" intellectual developments." Such justly carry authority, 
for such bring with them their own credentials. To make 
such comparisons and conclusions with accuracy, is doubtless 
a fruit of divine favour, blessing the just researches of faith 
(Prov. ii. 4, etc.). To perceive some of them more prominently 
than others may be the characteristic of different ages or 
crises in the history of theology, and unquestionably has ever 
been the object of a very special providence in the divine 
government of the Church ; to receive such conclusions with 
practical effect on heart, spirit, and life, is, above all, the 

i Page 59. 

378 NOTES. [Lect. V. 

peculiar and supernatural gift of God. But as truths of 
theology, evolved from its revealed principles, such develop- 
ments are in all cases, since the close of the canon of Scrip- 
ture, commended to us through the ministry of enlightened 
and sanctified reason' 

It is plain that the developments which Mr. Butler admits 
are direct logical inferences from known doctrines, and mostly 
such as are specifically revealed, as are the doctrines from 
which by inference they may be derived. But no distinc- 
tion is taken between the Revelation given on the one hand, 
and the Revelation received, or the degree of perception of 
the meaning of the revealing word, on the other. Moreover, 
although it is noted that the Church of different ages may 
vary in the degree of attention to and perception of some of 
the possible inferences derivable from doctrine, the idea of 
an organic growth in perception of revealed truth, and of 
conditions which promote such growth, is not taken up. 

Still, as a learned and thoughtful theologian, Mr. Butler 
could not avoid the impression that, in point of fact, there 
had been a good deal of valid development for which his 
principles hardly accounted ; and hence sometimes he limits 
his statement to this, that ' no new doctrine, in itself necessary 
to salvation, is anywise to be anticipated ' to come of deve- 
lopment, — a statement to which Dr. Newman himself could 
comfortably accede. However, even in the passage where he 
is led, half unconsciously apparently, to limit his thesis so 
seriously, he still presents the same conception of what, to 
his mind, is the whole account of development : * That the 
reason of man rightly exerted, under God's blessing, is capable 
of exhibiting these truths ' — those delivered in the New Testa- 
ment — ' under various forms, by comparison and deduction ; 
all which new forms, standing the usual tests of sound rea- 
soning, become, of course, to those to whom they are made 
known, as authoritative as the principles from which they arc 

'That in this way, though no new doctrine, in itself neces- 
sary to salvation, is anywise to be anticipated, yet the general 
Church of Christ, or particular branches thereof, may in fact 
possess a fuller light upon different points in different ages ; 

Lect. v.] note E. 379 

even as any individual believer by divine grace increases 
his spiritual knowledge in different points at different times, 
through social conference or private meditation.' — Letters, 
etc., p! 316. 

The last remark, if followed out, might have suggested a 
more complete treatment of the topic. But there is another 
passage, p. 240,^ in which he lays it down that ' theological 
knowledge is capable of a real movement in time, a true 
successive history ; ' and this takes place ' in two principal 
ways : the first is the process of logical development ... of 
primitive truth into its consequences, connections, and appli- 
cations. . . . The second is — positive discovery.' The latter 
includes unexpected confirmation and illustration of revealed 
truths from new sources, new proofs in support of the evi- 
dences, and the like. But it is the former only he conceives 
himself concerned with, — * that operation beginning with the 
earliest times, ... by which, under God's high providence, 
divine truth is arranged, unfolded, and applied by the natural 
faculties of human intelligence ' (p. 243). And thus he re- 
verts, on the whole, to his controversial position, that the 
later Christian teaching, so far as it is valid, varies from the 
earlier only as syllogistic manipulation has varied it. 

Note E. — Page 200. 

A tendency has been evinced by all theological parties to 
run their teaching up to a tradition, asserted to be primitive. 
So the Church did, so did various heretics, so did the Alex- 
andrians. In the case of some of these pretenders the plea 
was groundless enough ; but it might not be a deliberate 
fiction, even in cases where the grounds of the assertion are 
most slender. There is always something precedent which 
more or less paves the way for each new manifestation, con- 
nects it with the past, accounts more or less for its appear- 
ance. The impression that this is so is easily transmuted, 
by the zeal of party adherents, into the imagination of a 

^ See also Wordsworth's Leiters to Condon, p. 260, note (3d ed. Lond. 1848). 

38o NOTES. [Lect. V. 

The Church writers were always disposed to assert a clear 
tradition against each successive heresy. ' It has been taught 
so always in the Church.' This was not in all cases strictly 
accurate ; for ancient teaching that applied clearly and 
precisely to the new question as raised, was by no means 
always producible, nor had it existed. But those writers 
were not wholly wrong in their assertion. There had been 
(in accordance with the suggestion of the text) a common 
position of the Church's mind, which prepared and predis- 
posed it to take a definite line when the question was raised. 
And the consciousness of this, perfectly well grounded, 
represented itself, after the discussion had begun, as a pre- 
existent and articulate tradition. Any one who has had 
experience of active Church life must have observed ana- 
logous instances. 

Note F. — Page 205. 

It is hardly necessary, probably, to say that nothing is 
further from the writer's mind than to assume that every age 
of the Church excels that which went before it in full and 
exact doctrinal knowledge ; the Church may retrograde, 
and often has done so. What the Church might and ought 
to attain, is quite a different question from what she does 

As regards the early Church, and the manner in which it 
should be thought of, there have been extremes of praise, 
and of unfriendly criticism, both alike ungrounded, as 
Mosheim long ago pointed out {Inst. Cent. I. iii. 9). I do 
not here refer to the specialty of doctrine, but to the vigour 
of religious life generally. On this subject the following 
remark may be made. Setting out of sight special divine 
influences, and looking solely to the ordinary operations of 
human nature, such an institution as the Christian Church, 
having a message to the world, might be expected to unfold 
the contents of it more considerately, and deliberately, by 
degrees, as time advanced ; but, at the same time, it might 
be expected that the influence of circumstances, and the 

Lect. v.] note H. 381 

gradual participation in the common and prevailing elements 
of the world's thinking, would tend to modify, on the whole, 
the original peculiarity of the message. Power, peculiarity, 
energetic originality, would characterize the first thinkers 
and speakers ; in their successors these would be lowered, 
and a character of compromise and commonplace imparted 
to the scheme. Now, in point of fact, originality and power 
concentrate round the cradle of Christianity. Our Lord 
with His apostles stand apart. Then also we do see the 
influence of time and of foreign elements exerted with a 
debasing effect, and exhibited in a thousand forms down to 
our own day. But, on the other hand, a counteracting 
influence is supplied by the promise of the Spirit, and by 
the energy of His gracious operations. Hence it is that 
succeeding generations do not stand hopelessly below the 
sub-apostolic one. A recuperative force works always, 
sometimes with extraordinary manifestations of its power ; 
and Christianity is continually rehabilitated, and enters 
again and again into possession of the originality and en- 
thusiasm of its earliest days. 

Note G. — Page 207. 

Some references on this subject will be found in Note E 
to Lecture VL 

Note H. — Page 208. 

At bottom, ancient thought was moulded on articles or 
positions which were anti-Christian. These pervaded all the 
varieties of its manifestation, not always explicitly declared, 
but virtually present. For instance, the conception of the 
divine, of that which is to be worshipped, seems to be very 
different in the popular creed of the polytheists and the 
purer teaching of the nobler philosophies. Underlying both, 
however, was the maxim that God is no more and no other 
than what man discerns in nature : this is His measure, 
and indeed His life. The various life of nature might be 



[Lect. V. 

interpreted by the vulgar into polytheism ; its unity might be 
speculatively represented in the doctrine of one supreme, by 
the philosophers ; but the method was the same at bottom. 
So also as to the world, including human nature. In spite of 
dreams and myths, the fundamental view was, that the exist- 
ing state is a fair average specimen of what the world has been, 
and must be. There are endless changes, varied types, which 
recur and alternate. But these lie on the surface. They do 
not imply a progress from that which never shall be again 
to that which never was before. And thus the defect of the 
average state of things must simply be accepted. A wise 
man, indeed, may deal more dexterously and successfully 
with the elements of his state, and so escape out of some of 
the evils which mar it. That is, on the whole, exceptional. 
It does not alter the average state of the race, that certain 
individuals make their fortune. 

Note I. — Page 213. 

It will be seen that the illustration given in the text 
implies dissent on the writer's part from the elaborate argu- 
ment of Bull {Def. Fid. Nic. sec. iii.), with respect to one 
section of the teaching of many Ante-Nicene Fathers. He 
has endeavoured to reduce their language, with respect to 
the pre-existent state of the Son of God, and the relation of 
it to the Creation and the Incarnation, into harmony with 
the views ultimately received as sound. Without entering 
further here into a discussion which is connected only in- 
cidentally with my present object, I may refer to Note II. 
in the Appendix to the last edition of Newman's Arimis 
(London, 1871, p. 430), for a brief statement of the grounds 
on which Bull's reasoning cannot be accepted as satisfactory. 
See Note E to Lecture I., supra. 

Note J..— Page 214. 
A well-known example of the influence exerted by 

Lect. v.] note K. 383 

systematic considerations and suggestions, is the develop- 
ment given to the doctrine of the Sacraments by the school- 
men, e.£: by Peter Lombard, Sent, iv., and especially by 
Thomas. See Baur, Vorlcsimgen iiber die CJiristlicJie Dogmen- 
gesdiichtc, ii. 460 sq. Among the Lutherans, the doctrines of 
the ubiquity of our Lord's human nature, and the conmmni- 
catio idioinatiun, are corresponding examples. In the Re- 
formed branch of the Protestant Church, considerations con- 
nected with systematic consistency operated strongly from 
the first, through the medium of the clear and powerful 
mind of Calvin. Among the later movements of the Re- 
formed Theology, an example may be taken from the 
advance into importance, theologically, of the conception of 
the covenant of works. Compare, on the one hand, Calvin, 
Inst. ii. cap. 7, 10, II ; Musculus, Loci Covim. 1567, p. 306 {De 
Foed. Dei); Ursinus, Explic. Catech. 1593, vol. i. pp. 52, 
194 {De Miseria ; Dc Foedere Dei); with such writers as 
Polanus, Syntagma (1624, 2d ed.), p. 1445 ; Cloppenburg, 
Opera, i. p. 489, ii. p. 143 ; and Amesius, Medulla, cap. 10, 
p. 46, and compare his Chief Heads of Divinity {publ. 1612), 
p. 12. The divines of the latter series bring forward this 
aspect of the divine providence towards man, but with 
different degrees of prominence. 

Note K. — Page 217. 

The statement in the text may be controverted on the 
ground of the importance notoriously attached to the tradi- 
tion and consent of the Church in early times. On this 
subject I shall refer to the third volume of Dr. Goode's 
Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, and content myself with 
a few remarks on the manner in which the consent of the 
Church came into consideration. 

First, however, it may be observed that there was, of 
course, a period during which the apostolic teaching was 
present partly in a traditionary form, and no complete col- 
lection of the writings of the New Testament existed, not 
even an approach to a complete collection of them in any 
Church. This period was not very long ; but while it lasted, 

384 NOTES. [Lect. V. 

the tradition was a complete historical proof of the main 
articles of the teaching which it embodied. On points on 
which it was not conclusive, and after it became more remote 
and less authoritative in all points, an appeal could always be 
made to the apostles while they lived, or to their writings 
when they were gone. There is nothing in this state of the 
facts to require a modification of the statement in the text. 

But in setting the teaching of the Scriptures against the 
heretics, weight unquestionably was laid on this, that it was 
not only the teaching of Scripture as presently understood, 
but as always heretofore understood, in the churches. It was 
a continual consent (so it was said) as to what from the first 
had been taught, as authorized by the apostles, and in har- 
mony with their writings. In many cases this was perfectly 
true, and in the early times it was an argument of great force 
against the kind of errors then brought forward. For these 
were essentially subversive : they propounded another gospel, 
and yet they boldly attempted, on one pretext or other, to 
lay hold of the Scriptures, and vindicate to themselves scrip- 
tural support, to the bewilderment of simple people. It was 
therefore very natural to say to such a teacher, If yours is 
the true Christianity — yours, which is so different from ours — 
it could not possibly have remained hidden from the churches. 
It is incredible that it should never have been heard of in the 
great historical churches especially. If it were Christ's, it 
would have been current among us. Since now for the first 
time it meets us, it cannot be Christ's, but only an invention 
of your own. The temptation was strong to urge this argu- 
ment too far, both as to the principle laid down, and as to 
the kind of cases to which it might reasonably apply. But 
on the whole, in those circumstances, it was an argument of 
real force. Nor did it involve a real departure from the prin- 
ciple that the recorded teaching of the apostles must remain 
the standard of appeal, and rule the Church's teaching. But 
it connected that with the other principle, that the churches 
had not been left to mistake, and ignore the fundamental 
doctrines of the apostles. Therefore, so far, the authority of 
Scripture came to be wrapped up, as it were, in the tradition 
or the consent of the Church. 

Lect. v.] note K. 385 

It was only familiar human nature (compare Note E, 
supra) to plead this tradition or consent (still perhaps on the 
side of truth) where it could not be so truly and competently 
pleaded. Scripture teaching was produced against a heresy, 
and it was said the Scripture has always been understood 
so. Now that might be only partially true. Partially it 
was not true ; for it was under the influence of the question 
raised, and the solicitude excited, and the keen vigilance 
awakened, that passages of Scripture were lighted up into 
new significance, or disclosed their burden to minds pre- 
pared, as they were not prepared before, to mark their bear- 
ings. Partially, again, it had this much of truth in it, that 
the complete doctrine and deliverance were seen growing out 
of what had always been understood, as part of the same 
continuous truth, coming only more clearly and minutely 
into view. 

Secondly, the understanding of the Scripture teaching, 
which was set against the heresies, was determined largely by 
the common experience of the divine life among Christians. 
It is the Christian teaching that is the seed of the divine life : 
but again, that life reacts in the way of forming men's views 
and impressions ; for much of Scripture is interpreted to men 
through that which they feel to be involved in Christian 
fellowship with God. A heresy arose, and when tested 
against the common mind of Christians, especially of exer- 
cised and discerning Christians, it was felt to be a form of 
doctrine that must hinder, or mar, exercises of faith and 
worship which were familiar and dear to Christians. In- 
stantly those elements of Scripture teaching in v/hich such 
exercises of Christian life found their nurture, came to aid ; 
and the doctrine was tried and judged, more or less, under 
the influences thus supplied. And it was natural to say, 
because it was inevitable to feel, This heresy comes into 
collision with common principles of the Christian life — as 
they have always been recognised. This impression was 
thrown into the argument, without altering its form. It 
went to increase the currency of the plea about the tradi- 
tion and the consent of the Church. 

In both these cases — both as regards the principles recog- 

2 B 

386 • NOTES. [Lect. V. 

nised in the Christian understanding, and the experiences 
cherished in the Christian heart (made the means first of 
realizing a collision between the heresy and the existing 
Christianity, and then between the heresy and all previous 
Christianity) — we have an exemplification of what I have said 
in p. 199. The Church might not always have a developed 
doctrine ; but she often had, and felt she had, a real position 
— not now for the first time taken up, but pre-existing. It was 
this that was expressed by saying it was always so held. 

What was really relied on, in all the great controversies, as 
long as some vitality continued in the Church, was the evi- 
dence that could be produced as to the teaching of Scripture. 
But then it was the teaching of Scripture interpreted and 
understood from the point of view of the Church's attained 
principles, and under the influence, more or less, of the 
Church's Christian consciousness and experience. It was 
felt that these were not of yesterday : experience, principles, 
Scripture teaching — all had a continuity and congruity about 
them, that went back into the past. This was the feeling 
which sustained the constant allegation that the heretics 
were condemned by tradition and the consent of the Church. 
It was represented higher than it would bear to be, as an 
explicit and developed unity of doctrine from first to last ; 
but it rested at first on a very real ground. It was a plea, 
however, which in its own nature too readily lent itself to 
serve the purposes of ecclesiastical parties — to embody the 
arrogance of majorities, or to sustain by an evil conservatism 
every abuse which became habitual. 

Note L. — Page 223. 

The statement in the text admits of various illustrations. 
The most decisive, probably, may be found in the Reforma- 
tion doctrine of Justification by Faith only. A good deal of 
confusion has been allowed to rest on this subject, in con- 
sequence of the theological interests involved in the historical 
question. In connection with the strong sense and the strong 
assertions of the importance and necessity of this doctrine. 

lect. v.] note L. 387 

it was natural to suppose that there must have been, in every 
age of the Church, witnesses to the full and explicit doctrine, 
and very plentiful witnesses in the earlier and purer age. 
A great deal of citation of testimonies has accordingly gone 
on, fitted to illustrate the tendency to inaccuracy and irre- 
levancy which reigns in the department of citation above all 

The Reformation doctrine of justification by faith only 
gathers up into a single and simple result the effect of many 
truths and principles ; and it identifies that result with the 
teaching of the New Testament — of the Apostle Paul, for 
instance — on the subject of justification. In thus gathering 
up one result, the Reformers first of all presented to the 
mind a singularly clear and impressive thought, which they 
bade men recognise as emphatically declared in many 
passages of Scripture, and as distinctly present in many 
others. When a man held this thought or faith, his concep- 
tion of all the truths and principles, out of which justification 
by faith springs and effloresces, as their result, became fixed 
and cleared ; his impression of the designed bearing and 
relation of all those elements of truth became definite. A 
special conception of the character and ways of God, as 
embodied in those various truths, was fixed in his mind from 
the moment when he saw the effect of all those divine ar- 
rangements conspiring to reach the sinner in this channel 
or method of justification by faith. Hence also this same 
belief gave a peculiar determination not only to his theology, 
but to his whole religious experience. It imparted to him 
that consciousness of the mode of his relation towards God, 
that way of dealing with the elements of the spiritual world, 
that style of feeling, of religious joy and sorrow, hope and 
fear, which we call evangelical, using the word in its distinc- 
tive and characteristic, not in its general, sense. Here, again, 
in the department of experience, as well as in that of doctrine, 
the Protestant affirmed that he found himself in sympathy 
with the peculiar spirit and with the leadings of the Scrip- 
tures. It was just because this doctrine had these effects, in 
the region of thought and in that of life, that it was so objec- 
tionable to the Romanist, and so precious to the Protestant. 

388 NOTES. [Lect. V. 

Among the topics which the Reformation doctrine of justi- 
fication by faith presupposes, such as these may be enume- 
rated : the sense of the word justification ; the attributes of 
God, which explain how the word in its forensic sense should 
be so important, and should be made so prominent, i.e. in 
particular the Divine Righteousness ; the inability of man 
fallen to justify himself; the substitutionary character of our 
Lord's work ; the imputation of sin and righteousness ; the 
office of the Law and Gospel ; the benefit of Christ's right- 
eousness, or forgiveness and acceptance promised and given 
to faith, and not to any other state, exercise, or work ; the ex- 
clusion of good works done after conversion from the ground 
of our justification ; the forgiveness of sins after conversion, 
on the same grounds and in the same manner as at con- 
version. Besides these, the office of the sacraments might 
be named, as most material to the Romish view of justifica- 
tion, and therefore requiring to be contemplated in the Re- 
formation argument. 

Now it is quite reasonable to allege that a Father may 
be a good witness to the substantial Reformation doctrine of 
justification by faith, although he does not speak like the 
Reformers on all those points. For example, a Father might 
diff'er from the Reformers about the sense of the word justi- 
fication, and yet he might hold their doctrine of justification 
by faith under some other name, and propound it in some 
distinct but parallel method of explication. Still it is always 
material to see how much of this complex doctrine is fairly 
to be ascribed to an early writer, when he is claimed as an 
authority for justification by faith ; for on this it depends 
whether he decides the main points involved in it, in favour 
of the Protestants and against the Romanists. It is to be 
remembered that the Romanists hold many of those under- 
lying positions as well as we, although they give the whole 
doctrine another turn, partly by what they deny, and partly 
by new elements which they import. 

Now it has been very common to assume, that as the 
central thoughts of the doctrine of justification are those of 
free forgiveness received by faith, and entire dependence on 
the Lord Jesus Christ for acceptance, wherever those thoughts 

Lect. v.] note L. 389 

are expressed in early writers, a witness is to be claimed for 
the Protestant doctrine in its main substance. Nor do I 
doubt that in many such passages the writers were in 
harmony with the Protestant mode of thought and feeling, 
and that this can fairly be made out. Still it is necessary 
to consider in what sense and under what limits, expressed 
or understood, those thoughts are expressed. For the 
Romanists also will express themselves in the same way, 
on a certain understanding. All Christians trace up their 
redemption to Christ, all profess dependence on Him, all will 
in some sense describe it as an absolute dependence. The 
passage cited from an early writer, in order to be relevant, 
must at least lean to the Protestant side of the real anti- 
thesis between Protestant and Romanist. Looked at from, 
this point of view, the teaching of the Fathers will be found 
to be extremely inconsistent. It is indeed pervaded by a 
lively sense of indebtedness to God's mercy, and to the merit 
of Christ for forgiveness and a title to eternal life. And it 
does not countenance the later inventions, by which the 
Church of Rome has imperilled that great foundation ele- 
ment of Christian thought and experience ; such as the effi- 
cacy ascribed to the sacrament of penance, and the detailed 
doctrine of merit. But their teaching is far from being clear 
and consistent ; far from suggesting that the Fathers had at- 
tained to a doctrinal position which could fairly be described 
as substantially identical with the Reformation doctrine. It 
is one thing to assert that all the saved, from the first, have 
been saved in a way of free forgiveness and acceptance 
through the merit of Christ imparted to faith only, and that 
enough appears in the writings of many of the Fathers to 
satisfy us that in their habitual thoughts and feelings there 
was nothing to preclude, but much to corroborate, the im- 
pression that they were saved in that way. This is true, and 
it is a truth which strengthens our sense of the fellowship of 
all believers in one Lord and one truth. It is another thing, 
however, to assert that those same Fathers had attained so 
much clearness of view as to the principles on which they 
were saved, as to have held and taught in substance the 
Protestant doctrine of justification. Most of them speak 

'390 NOTES. [Lect. V. 

sometimes In accordance with it, and sometimes not. The 
only thoroughly satisfactory way of obtaining the verdict 
of a Father, if that is thought important, would be to break 
up the Protestant doctrine into the separate theological 
positions which concur and unite in it, and to take an issue 
as to his teaching on each of these. Then an estimate might 
be made of his general tendency — how his face was set. But 
many of the citations commonly made prove only that the 
writer was so far on the way towards the Reformation 
doctrine, not that he had arrived. 

For a more specific example of what I mean, let me take 
that department of the Justification controversy which 
refers to the forgiveness of sins committed after a man has 
first received the grace of God. There was no department 
of the subject with respect to which the Reformation pro- 
duced a more decisive change than this ; none on which the 
peculiar genius of the Reformation doctrine comes out more 
energetically ; none in which the Reformers stood more 
characteristically opposed to the Romanists. For the Re- 
formers held that remission was still held out, through 
Christ, to faith ; while the Romanists, owning Christ's sacri- 
fice to lie at the foundation, provided an elaborate system 
of contrivances, ritual and meritorious, for effecting the 
requisite cleansing. ' Atque hie praecipuus est nostrae dispu- 
tationis cardo,' says Calv. Inst. iii. 14. ii. 'Nam de prin- 
cipio Justificationis, nihil inter nos et saniorcs Scholasticos 
pugnae est, quin peccator gratuito a damnatione liberatus, 
justitiam obtineat, idque per remissionem peccatorum, nisi 
quod illi sub vocabulo justificationis renovationem compre- 
hendunt. . . . Justitiam vero hominis regenerati sic describunt, 
quod homo per Christi fidem Deo semel reconciliatus bonis 
operibus Justus censeatur apud Deum et eorum merito sit 
acceptus. . . . Verum Dominus contra, se fidem imputasse 
Abrahae in justitiam pronuntiat, non eo tempore quo idolis 
adhuc serviebat, sed quum multis jam annis vitae sanctitate 
excelleret. . . . Manet enim perpetuo mediator Christus, qui 
patrem nobis reconciliet, ac perpetua est mortis ejus efficacia. 
Nempe ablutio sanctificatio expiatio, perfecta denique obe- 
dientia, qua iniquitates omnes nostrae conteguntur.' Now it 

Lect. v.] note M. 391 

is true, certainly, that the Fathers cannot be made responsible 
for the Romish theory on this subject ; but who that re- 
members the statements regarding post-baptismal sin from 
Cyprian downwards, if not from an earlier date, can doubt 
that it is stretching benevolent construction beyond all 
bounds, to ascribe to most of them the Reformation doctrine 
on this particular point ? 

However true it be that the sense of redemption by 
Christ, or dependence on Him and owing all to Him, is the 
common faith of the Church, in which all believers are at 
one, yet the giving effect to this in the Protestant doctrine 
of justification by faith, therein opening up the mind of the 
inspired writers on this subject, was a great Reformation 
development, very memorable, and most fruitful. 

Note M. — Page 229. 

I have ventured to speak so positively of the date of 
this Epistle, although I am aware of the authorities which 
incline to a considerably later date. I cannot persuade 
myself, that if, when the Epistle was written, the Gnostic 
theories had already become matter of general discussion, 
the Epistle could have avoided more explicit and polemical 
reference to them. The subject treated laid the writer 
under obligation to make such reference, if they were 
already prominent in the Church. 


Note A. — Page 224. 

There has been a good deal of discussion as to the 
reasonableness of supposing the early heresies to be in 
view in the Apostles' Creed, as we have it. All competently- 
learned men have long ago given up the idea that this 
creed could have been composed and delivered by the 
apostles. But, holding that it represents in substance what 
the apostles sanctioned as the baptismal confession of 
Christians, and what therefore existed with variations of 
form in the different churches from the earliest times, some 
have been unwilling to admit any influence of the heresies 
in determining what it delivers. So Bishop Bull, Grabe, 
and Bingham. The Arminians had taken the other side, in 
the interest of their view, that the primitive Church was 
thoroughly latitudinarian, and became stringent only by 
degrees. In a more considerate tone, the influence of the 
heresies in determining the wording of the creed, as we have 
it, was maintained by Basnage and by King {Crit. Hist. 
Lond, 1702). 

If it be granted, as it can hardly be denied, that the 
baptismal confession, with a substantial harmony of contents, 
remained somewhat various and indeterminate in form for 
a considerable period, it would, as it appears to me, have 
been a very remarkable thing if the wording of it had not 
formed itself more or less with a consciousness of the value 
of given words and phrases as fitted to exclude those heresies, 
which came into view and had their character recognised in 
the earlier ages. 

Lect. VI.] NOTE D. 393 

Note B. — Page 245. 

The most convenient collections of the Reformation con- 
fessions are probably those of Hase or Tittmann for the 
Lutherans, and Niemeyer's for the churches distinctively 
called Reformed. The Sylloge Confessiomim is less complete. 

Note C. — Page 251. 

It has recently been stated (in connection with the disrup- 
tion forced on during the present year by the action of the 
cantonal authorities), that the Church of Neufchatel has ex- 
isted since the Reformation without any confession, at least 
without any in connection with which the clergy were required 
to undertake obligations. This fact is the more interesting-, 
because it is understood that a type of doctrine substantially 
evangelical has been all along maintained in that Church. 
This cannot be meant in such a sense as to exclude fluctua- 
tions, of the kind which all churches experience, in reference to 
time and tendency. It is hardly conceivable that the Neuf- 
chatel Church, after the days of Ostervald, should not have 
partaken in the tendency to reduce the amount and the pre- 
cision of doctrinal statement, which then prevailed in Protes- 
tant churches, and the progress of which can be traced with 
great exactness in the neighbouring cantons. In any view 
of it, however, the statement is interesting ; for the Church 
of Neufchatel, though not large, — perhaps forty or fifty 
congregations, — is still large enough to give room for a 
genuine development of the genius and the necessities of 
Presbyterianism, I am not aware what the circumstances 
were which brought it to pass that the Church of Farel 
should occupy so peculiar a position in reference to con- 

Note D. — Page 251. 

The objection mentioned in the text to the practice of 
dispensing with written creeds will not have any weight with 

394 NOTES. [Lect. VI. 

Congregationalists, but it is fitted to have weight with Pres- 
byterians. The ground of it is simply this. In a congrega- 
tion all things can be settled by a vote ; no one is concerned 
but those who are or may be present ; every one acts on his 
own responsibility, and there is no appeal. On that system, 
every one may consult his own impressions regarding Bible 
teaching, and may act on them for himself. Whatever cause 
of complaint may exist, on the score of mistake, prejudice, 
or narrowness, every one feels that the case is remediless. 
But in a Church system where responsible rulers administer, 
and a representative principle exists, the disposal of cases 
cannot be left to the mere impressions of those who are 
charged with judicial functions. There are serious divisions 
in the world as to the sense which may be drawn from, or 
given to. Scripture teaching. The whole body of office-bearers, 
and the general membership of the Church, have a right to 
be assured that those who deal with a case on their behalf, 
undertake to do it on a distinct understanding as to the side 
to be taken on these points. Such an understanding is, in 
principle, a creed. 

Note E. — Page 257, 

Whether it ought to be held that there are Christian doc- 
trines to be distinguished as fundamental ; how the Biblical 
teaching on the one hand, and the duty of the Church on the 
other, stand related to this distinction, — these are questions 
which gave rise to much discussion after the Reformation. 
The cause of argument led the Protestants to lay some 
weight on the distinction, and hence it came to be their duty 
to explain, illustrate, and defend it. See, among the Reformed, 
Franc. Turretin. Inst. TJieol. Elenet. Loc. i. Q. 14 ; Fred. 
Spanheim (the younger). Opera, iii. p. 2 ; De Moor upon 
Marckius, i. pp. 469-485 ; Stapfer, Theol. Polem. i. pp. 513, 550. 
The latter gives a valuable list of authorities at p. 516, wind- 
ing up with, ' Plures non addo, cum dies me deficeret, si 
omnes qui de hac re scripserunt allegare vellem, quicunque 
enim aut de mutua religionum tolerantia, aut de Protes- 
tantium unione quidquam ediderunt, hanc materiam simul 

Lect. VI.] NOTE F. 395 

tractarunt' Among the Lutherans may be cited Hunnius, 
hidi(TKS-<pig defimdamentali disse7isn, etc., 1626 (written to prove 
the Calvinists to err fundamentally), and Ouenstedt, Theologia 
didactica poleniica, cited by Hase. See article on Union by 
Twesten in Herzog's Encyclopcsdie, xvi. p. 665, and an article 
by Kling on Glatibensartikel, v. 176. There is also an article 
by Tholuck, Lnth. LeJire von der Fundamental-artikeln , in the 
Deutsche ZeitscJirift fiir christl. Wissenschaft, 185 1, Nos. 9 
and 12 ; and a characteristically compact summary of the old 
Lutheran teaching on the point in Hase's Hutterus Redivivits 
(loth ed. 1862), p. 23. 

The tendency of the Arminians, as well as of other latitu- 
dinarian schools of later origin, was to reduce as much as pos- 
sible the amount of what should be considered fundamental. 
On the other hand, in order to maintain a due sense of the 
importance of the doctrines commonly taught, the orthodox 
Protestants were often tempted to multiply fundamentals 
unduly. This tendency, indeed, appeared very early among 
the Lutherans. 

In the Church of Rome the distinction has not attracted 
much attention. Their distinction between points decided 
by the Church, which are de fide, and those which are matters 
of school opinion, may be said to replace for some purposes 
the Protestant distinction, though the two are not to be 

Note F. — Page 264. 

It will presently appear that I do not overlook the distinc- 
tion between the case of those who are members only of the 
Church, and those who, in addition, are charged with official 
responsibilities. In the case of the latter, e.g. of those who 
are authorized to teach, there is reason for requiring more 
full satisfaction both as to personal character, and as to fit- 
ness to instruct, than it would be reasonable to require 
universally in the case of all members. But I do not think 
it necessary to introduce the distinction here. It is, however, 
the case of office-bearers principally that I have in view. 

396 NOTES. [Lect. VI. 

Note G. — Page 272. 

Venio itaque ad ilium articulum quern et nostri praetendunt 
ad ineundam curiositatem, et haeretici inculcant ad importan- 
dam scrupulositatem. Scriptum est, inquiunt, Ouaerite, et 
invenietis. . . , Omnibus dictum sit, Quaerite, et invenietis ; 
tamen et hie expetit sensus certare cum interpretationis 
gubernaculo. Nulla vox divina ita dissoluta est et diffusa, 
ut verba tantum defendantur, et ratio verborum non con- 
stituatur. Sed in primis hoc propono, unum itaque et 
certum aliquid institutum esse a Christo, quod credere omni 
modo debeant nationes, et idcirco quaerere, ut possint, cum 
invenerint, credere. Unius, porro, et certi instituti infinita 
inquisitio non potest esse. Ouaerendum est donee invenias, 
et credendum ubi inveneris, et nihil amplius, nisi custodien- 
dum quod credidisti, donee hoc insuper credas, aliud non esse 
credendum, ideoque nee requirendum, cum id inveneris et 
credideris quod ab eo institutum est, qui non aliud tibi 
mandat inquirendum, quam quod instituit. De hoc quidem 
si qui dubitat, constabit penes nos esse id quod a Christo 
institutum est. Interim, ex fiducia probationis, praevenio, 
admonens quosdam nihil esse quaerendum ultra quae credi- 
derunt id esse quod credere debuerunt, ne, Quaerite et 
invenietis, sine disciplina rationis interpretentur. — Tert. De 
Praescr. Haereticonim, cap. viii. ix. 

Note H. — Page 274. 

' The inspired teaching is before the Church.' For the 
Church is called out by the word, and takes birth, growth, 
and life in the faith of it. The mode of expression is 
adopted to avoid dispute which might arise if the phrase 
had been, ' The Scriptures are before the Church.' That is 
true for every practical purpose ; but it is also true, of course, 
that the Church existed before the revealed truth was com- 
mitted to writing by inspired men. On this ground, Roman- 
ists and others maintain that the Scriptures embody only a 
portion of revelation, and that another substantial part was 

Lect. VI.] NOTE I. 397 

handed down, outside of the Scriptures, by traditions They 
have thus a distinct interest in keeping the assertion to the 
front, that the Church is before the Scriptures ; for so they con- 
vey the idea of a plenitude of knowledge in the Church, and 
a capacity to decide for herself on the boundaries of revealed 
truth, existing antecedently to the Scriptures, and not super- 
seded by the Scriptures. This view has already been re- 
jected in these Lectures, in consistency with the familiar 
position, that 'it has pleased God to commit' His revealed 
will ' wliolly unto writing, which maketh Holy Scripture to be 
most necessary.' Still it is accurately true, that the Church 
existed before the Scriptures. And so our Confession may be 
understood when it says, that * to the catholic visible Church 
Christ hath given the . . . oracles of God.' Cap. xxv. § 3. 

Note I. — Page 278. 

It is characteristic of all confessions, taking birth at times 
when the mind and heart of the Church are deeply stirred, 
that they speak with assurance. A strong feeling of confi- 
dence in the unity of the faith through all ages manifestly 
pervades them. Yet it is just as true that they are uttered as 
the expression, in the manner then natural and tJieii called 
for, of the existing faith, and without the least idea that the 
perfect expression has now been reached, or that nothing can 
be mended. It was not the Council of Nice, but a later 
council, that forbade adding anything to that creed : it was 
not the Lutheran Reformers, but a later generation, that ex- 
alted the Lutheran symbols to so sacred a supremacy. The 
truly great Church guides uttered the faith for themselves 
and for their own generation, in the manner suited to the 
present time, with no thought of forestalling and prejudging 
succeeding generations. 

The appeal prefixed to the Scottish Confession has been 
often quoted : ' Protesting that gif any man will note in this 
oure Confessioun any article or sentence repugning to God's 
holy word, that it wald pleis him, of his gentilnes, and 
for Christiane cherities saik, to admoneis us of the samyn in 
writt ; and We of our honour and fidelitie do promeis unto 

398 NOTES. [Lect. VI. 

him satisfactioun fra the mouth of God, (that is, fra His holy- 
Scriptures,) or elhs reformatioun of that quhilk he sail 
prove to be amyss.' This openness to correction as fallible 
men was combined with undoubting assurance as to the 
substantial faith, as appears by the last sentence : ' Thairfoir 
be the assistance of the mychtie Spreitt of the same oure 
Lord Jesus, we firmlie purpoise to abyde to the end in the 
confessioun of this cure Faithe.' 

A recent writer in the British Quarterly Review (No. cxiv. 
p. 434) reminds us that in the French Protestant Church, in 
the Synod of Tonneins (A.D. 1614), a regular provision was 
made with reference to amendments of the Confession : 
* At the request of divers provinces, it was ordained that our 
National Synods should not only not innovate anything in 
the Confession of Faith, Catechism, Liturgy, and Discipline 
of our Churches, unless the matter has been first proposed 
by one or more, but also unless it were a thing of very great 
importance ; nor should that be resolved on till such time as 
all the provinces, being duly informed of it, had first debated 
it at home in their respective Synods.' (From Quick's 
Synodicoji, p. 410.) 

It is quite plain that, if a confession is of any length and 
fulness, then (setting aside the possibility of erroneous de- 
terminations, and presuming it to express the true faith in 
substance) it will in many of its features exhibit what was 
natural and appropriate with reference to the existing cir- 
cumstances of the time, and the existing form and stage of 
men's thoughts, — features which render it not so natural 
and appropriate as the direct expression of the faith in 
altered circumstances and under new mental conditions. 

One might be tempted on this ground to start the theory 
that each generation should frame its confession wholly 
de novo ; but besides the reasons given in the Lecture for 
cherishing the consciousness of consent with the preceding 
generations of the Church, so far as truth and honesty enable 
us to do so, it is also to be remembered that not every gene- 
ration is qualified for confession-making. There are great 
epochs which throw out great creeds. It would be to afifect 
an independence which is unreal, to disregard that fact. It 

Lect. VI.] NOTE J. 399 

ought to be fully recognised in practice. But, at the same 
time, recognising the Protestant principle of the sole and 
direct authority of Scripture, and also the fact that the 
historical confession was most appropriate to its own age, 
and less adequately so to ours {e.g. in what it expresses, 
in what it omits, in fulness of expression, in proportioning of 
topics, and the like), there ought to be no unreadiness to 
give effect to the Church's actual persuasion of what the 
Scripture teaches, whenever a substantial call of duty in that 
direction appears. 

It is always worth remembering, that as no confession 
drawn up by men claims to be wholly wise or absolutely 
perfect, extreme susceptibility or restlessness about mere 
shades and apices, is symptomatic not of a strong and inde- 
pendent mind, but of a weak and feverish one. When, how- 
ever, a substantial case for some modification does arise, that 
does not always imply the necessity of patching weighty 
historical documents by interpolations, or mutilating them 
by omissions and alterations. An appended explanatory 
statement may be sufficient 

Note J. — Page 279. 

' In its office toward those within its pale, it is the duty of 
the Church, as holding the truth of Scripture as the basis of 
its union, by some formal and public declaration of its own 
faith, to give assurance to its members of the soundness of 
its profession, and to receive assurance of theirs. . . . 

'In its office to those within its pale, it is the duty of the 
Church, as the authoritative teacher of divine truth, by some 
formal and public summary of the doctrine it holds, to give 
assurance that it teaches what is in accordance with the word 
of God. . . . 

' In its office to those that are without its pale, it is the duty 
of the Church, as the witness and protest for truth against the 
error or unbelief of the world, to frame and exhibit a public 
confession of its faith.' . . , — Bannerman, Church of Christ, 
Edin. 1868, vol. i. pp. 296, 299, 301. See also Note K. 

400 NOTES. [Lect. VI. 

Note K.— Page 280. 

' The distinction ... to which I have already referred be- 
tween a confession of faith regarded as a declaration of, or 
testimony to, divine truth, and a confession of faith regarded 
as a test of membership and office, has not always been 
sufficiently kept in view in the Reformed churches. Owing 
to this especially, the multiplication of articles, true in them- 
selves, but non-fundamental, and of comparatively subordi- 
nate importance, has been in some cases unquestionably a 
practical evil.' 

' It is perfectly clear, for example, that the Westminster 
Confession is not fitted to be a test of Church membership. 
Accordingly we do not use it as such, and our Church has 
never appointed it to be so used. Even as regards some of 
the office-bearers of the Church, it may fairly be questioned 
whether it is altogether adapted to be employed as a test of 
their fitness for office. The general principle to be laid 
down with respect to this matter seems to be this : What- 
ever tncths it is necessary for a man to believe in order that he 
may rightly discharge his duty in the Church, these it is lawful 
in the Church to embody in a confession, and require Ids sub- 
scription as a condition of office ; and, vice versa. Whatever 
truths it is not necessary for a man to hold in order to the 
rigJit discharge of the duties of Jus office, these it is not lawful 
to demand his siLbscription to as a term of office. What these 
precise truths may be to which we are warranted in requir- 
ing an express personal adhesion in the case of the different 
ranks of office-bearers, is another and, it may be, a more 
difficult question ; but of the soundness of the general prin- 
ciple now enunciated, there can, I think, be little doubt. 
Take the case of deacons, for example. They have not, 
generally speaking, the theological training necessary to 
enable them fully to understand the Confession of Faith in 
all its parts ; and if they had, they do not need to under- 
stand it all, in order to perform efficiently the work of their 
office in the Church. And so even in the higher office of 
ruling elder. The amount of truth which an elder requires 
intelligently to hold, in order rightly to do the duty of ruling 

Lect. VI.] NOTE L. 401 

in the Church, to which he is specially set apart at his ordina- 
tion, is much less than that which is needed by the minister, 
Avho is publicly to teach as well as to exercise government in 
the Christian Society.' — Bannerman, The Church of Christ, 
vol. i. p. 320. The discussion of the whole subject of the 
power of the Church in reference to doctrine, including the 
question of creeds, which this work contains, is exceedingly 
full, clear, and instructive. It occupies upwards of fifty 
pages, and thoroughly deserves the attention of students. 

Note L. — Page 284. 

It may be proper to explain why I have kept in view only 
the extent of doctrine which office-bearers may be called 
upon to adopt as consistent with their own personal belief. 
Other methods of taking security for doctrine have been 
suggested and employed ; and these, it may be thought, 
ought to have been considered. For example, the Church 
may retain a pretty minute and extensive creed, but may 
not pledge her office-bearers to all its teaching, but only 
require a general acquiescence or approbation. Or the 
Church may simply make the confession a law, to be en- 
forced like other laws. Her ministers may be simply notified, 
that if they teach otherwise, they do it at their peril. I have 
not forgotten these methods, the first of which, at any rate, 
is in use in some great churches, while instances of the 
second may also be produced from past and present times.' 
But it has seemed to me, that whatever may be done in 
these methods, the Church can never dispense with some 
testimony from, those who enter the ministry as to their 
personal faith. That testimony may vary, from the simple 
statement that they receive the teaching of the Scriptures, 
or the teaching of Christ, to any degree of complexity and 
minuteness. But some assurance as to their personal belief 
is the natural basis for any obligations as to teaching others ; 

^ A discussion of these methods, admirable in tone and in abihty, by my 
collea<nie Dr. Blaikie, will be found in the number for January 1873 of the 
British and Foreign Evangelical Revir.v. 

2 C 

-402 NOTES. [Lect. VI. 

and it is hardly conceivable that a Church should dispense 
with this in some form or other, — more or less brief, more or 
less precise, — however the mode of obligation connected with 
existing confessional documents might be altered, varied, 
or relaxed. Now the question, what assurance of personal 
belief the Church may legitimately or profitably require, 
appears to me to be the main question ; and I cannot 
imagine it to be less than a disclaimer of the heretical alterna- 
tives in regard to what the Church believes to be fundamental 
points. Usually I think it must involve something more, 
unless great changes should supervene upon the practical 
conditions under which the branches of the Christian Church 
exist at present. 

I had intended, however, to introduce into this Lecture a 
statement of reasons for thinking that it is a wholesome thing 
for churches to have articles of declared persuasion or testi- 
mony, additional to those which they think it needful to have 
confessed, by office-bearers, as matter of personal belief. 
Of these, various applications might be made, according to 
providential circumstances. What was designed on these 
points, by some fatality has been omitted, and the printing is 
too far advanced to rectify the oversight. 

Note M.— Page 286. 

The Lutheran creeds constitute a volume of several 
hundred pages. The collection of the Reformed confessions 
is a body of documents, of which one applied to one branch 
of the Church, and another to another. But the Lutheran 
collection was cumulatively imposed (not indeed on all, but) 
on most of the Lutheran churches. Nothing could be more 
preposterous. The system could be maintained in vigour 
for a time ; then it became palpably hollow and delusive. 

The case of Geneva, among the Reformed Churches, is a 
memorable example of the way in which creed obligations, 
strained too high and multiplied too much in the hands of a 
zealous orthodoxy, may be rapidly relaxed and reduced to 
nothing, under the influences of a new period and new men. 
The Church of Geneva rested on the second Helvetic Con- 

Lect. VI.] NOTE M. 403 

fession. More recently, the Canons of Dort had also been 
received as authoritative. Troubles and anxieties arose after 
the middle of the seventeenth century, from the influence 
exerted by the school of Saumur in France. A tendency 
to fall in with the views of that school was shown by some 
influential men, and an increasing measure of it was appre- 
hended. Regarding this as in itself unsatisfactory, and as 
likely to lead to further and more serious variations from the 
received Genevan teaching, the defenders of that teaching, 
led by the elder Turretine (Francis), after various local mea- 
sures, decided on concerting with the churches of some other 
cantons a new formula, intended to shut out innovations in 
doctrine. Zurich, then the seat of a zealous and resolute 
Calvinistic orthodoxy, took a leading part in the scheme ; 
and the result was the P'ormula Consensus Helvetici, which 
was imposed on all pastors in the cantons that adopted it. 
It was drafted by Heidegger of Zurich, but was of course 
amended in consultation. 

The Formula is an able and interesting theological state- 
ment, which represents the general persuasion of the Swiss 
Calvinists on the points disputed. In one or two instances, 
the mere progress of thought and investigation has con- 
clusively disposed of the decision it supports. Otherwise, 
it still well deserves to be studied, as a deliverance on 
some difficult questions. But it is unquestionably too 
minute and detailed to be appropriate as a symbolical book, 
intended for a church or for a body of churches. It is more 
like the consultative opinion of a faculty of theology on 
points submitted to them. In point of tone it is unobjec- 
tionable. There is studious courtesy and Christian brother- 
liness towards those whose opinions are disapproved, and a 
marked moderation in the terms in which the disapproba- 
tion is expressed. These features are very likely due to 
Heidegger himself, who was admirably free from theological 
bitterness, and indeed in all respects a thoroughly estimable 
and right-minded man. 

It is probably not generally known that Heidegger was 
run down at Zurich by an extreme orthodox party there, 
as a man of questionable zeal and doubtful principles, because 

404 NOTES. [Lect. VI. 

he did not choose to approve of all the measures they desired. 
In public sermons and in private talk, he was attacked so as 
to make his life uncomfortable, and to subject his Christian 
patience and good feeling to a pretty severe strain. More 
hasty and decided measures were desired by the extreme 
party ; and they were anxious, also, to introduce into the 
Formula a condemnation of the views of the Dutch fede- 
ralist theologians. It is an instructive and interesting thing 
to observe that there was an orthodoxy beyond Heidegger's, 
represented by a number of respectable bigots and block- 
heads, now forgotten, who were able to a large extent to 
prejudice the minds of the good people of Zurich, and to 
run down the only man in Zurich who could perform any 
important service to the cause to which they professed to be 

The Formula Consensus was made binding about the year 
1678. Francis Turretine died in 1687. The tendency to 
change had not been materially checked ; it was indeed in 
the air, and appeared everywhere. In 1706, partly in 
deference to remonstrances from the Kings of Prussia and of 
England, who conceived the Formula Consensus to be fitted 
to give umbrage to other churches, partly under the influence 
of a party in the Genevan Church of which John Alphonse 
Turretine (son of Francis) was the destined leader, the autho- 
rity of the Formula Consensus was got rid of, in so far as no 
promise with respect to it was now demanded. The question 
addressed to candidates was now arranged so as to present a 
curious gradation : ' You believe and confess whatever is con- 
tained in the Old and New Testament ; you promise to teach 
nothing that is not conformable to the confession and cate- 
chism of our Church, as containing the sum of what is 
revealed in the Scriptures ; further, you are zvarned to teach 
nothing, in church or college, against the Canons of Dort and 
the regulations of the venerable company,' This lasted for 
nineteen years; and then, in 1725, Formula Consensus, Canons 
of Dort, and Helvetic Confession itself, were all got rid of 
together, and there remained only this : ' You confess that 
you hold fast the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, as 
contained in the books of the Old and New Testament, of 

Lect. VI.] NOTE M. 405 

which doctrine we have a summary in the Catechism.' A 
statement in explanation was attached, setting forth that this 
was not meant to pledge men to all, nor even to recommend 
all, that the Catechism contained ; but only embodied an 
acknowledgment that the substance of Christian doctrine 
was contained or comprehended in the Catechism.^ 

It would be a great mistake to suppose that the relaxa- 
tion of confessional obligations caused the tendency to low 
and latitudinarian doctrine in Geneva. The relaxation was 
itself, on the contrary, the effect, an inevitable effect, of a 
great change then rapidly proceeding in the minds of men, 
in many of the churches, with reference to the view to be 
taken of Christianity as a remedial system, and with reference 
to the principles on which the Church was to be administered. 
But the recoil was probably rendered more severe by the 
introduction of the Formula Consensus. 

The prevailing spirit, in the earlier stages of this anti- 
confessional movement, does not appear to have had the 
character of specific objection to particular doctrines set 
forth in the Church documents. It was rather a disposition 
to undervalue definite doctrine altogether, and to regard the 
previous zeal of the Church in regard to it as misplaced and 
mischievous. The great thing was to get attention directed 
to the practical interests. Hence the Church ought to dis- 
embarrass herself of those detailed symbols. It was there- 
fore a simplification of confessions and of formulae, not 
proceeding in the spirit of care for doctrine (see pp. 141, 142), 
but rather in the spirit of deprecating attention to it. Men 
were concerned in the movement who were personally 
estimable, and who are not lightly to be accused of having 
discarded, in their own minds, the fundamental Christian 
doctrines. J. A. Turretine, Ostervald, and Werenfels all 
deserve at least that character ; and they may all be re- 
garded as having agreed generally in promoting the mode 
of view and feeling which I have described. Their object 
was, unquestionably, to promote the efficiency of the Church, 
and the influence of Christianity in the world ; and they 
believed the line they took to be the warrantable and right 

^ Schweizer, Centraldogmeii (Zurich, 1856), pp. 439 sq., 688 sq. 

4o6 NOTES. [Lect. VI. 

one with that view. But in promoting and establishing the 
idea that doctrinal distinctions ought to be regarded as of 
subordinate importance, they played into the hands of those 
who were ready to replace Christianity by Deism. Their 
anti-confessional proceedings were chiefly mischievous as 
expressing and embodying that general tendency ; for here, 
as in other cases, it is not so much the step taken that is 
important, as the aniimis which inspires it, and the set of 
the stream which it indicates. 


Abraham, promise to his seed, 337. 
Abrahamic covenant, 48, 336. 
Amesius, Gul., 299. 
Analogical teaching, worth of, 148, 

151 ; works on, 365. 
Ancient thought, its basis, 381. 
Angel of the Lord, 336. 
Apostolic teaching, 85 ; Constitutions, 

361 ; Fathers, 360. 
Apostles' Creed, 243, 392. 
Arianism, 212. 
Arnold, Mr. M., 150, 316. 
Athanasius, 291. 
Atonement, 26, 306. 

Bannerman, Dr. J., 399, 400. 

Barnabas, P'.pistle of, 343, 360, 361, 391. 

Bernard of Claii-vaux, 294. 

Bernard's Bampton Lecture, 355- 

Bingham, 392. 

Bull, Bishop, 295, 382, 392. 

Butler, Professor Archer, iSl, 375. 

Calvin, 390. 

Children, knowledge of, 157. 

Christ in Old Testament, 67. 

Church action with reference to creeds. 
Lecture VI. passim ; as related to doc- 
trine, 133 sq. ; as disciplinary insti- 
tute, 140 ; as teaching institute, 140 ; 
influence of, on individuals, 136 ; 
structure of, in relation to develop- 
ment, 202. 

Church, the early, how related to doc- 
trine, 187, 189 ; estimate of attain- 
ments, 196 sq., 204. 

Consent of Church, on what grounds 
assumed, 356, 379, 383. 

Creeds, Lecture VI. passim. 

Criticism, modem, 21. 

De auxiliis, controversy in Church 
of Rome, 300. 

Development, theory of, 16, 25 ; see 
Lecture V. passim ; asserted, 183 ; 
in Hebrew Scriptures, 310; of human 
history, 330. 

Diversities of judgment among Chris- 
tians, 235. 

Doctrine, competency of, disputed, 5, 
22-29, 146 sq. ; conception of histoiy 
of, Romish, 13 ; Protestant, 13 ; 
critical schools, 21-25 5 effect of dif- 
ferences respecting, 2, 235 ; and fact, 
how discriminated, 363 ; history of, 
applied to method, 4, 6 ; is obfedience 
of thought to Scripture, 170 ; in 
Scripture, not delivered in school 
method, 89 ; in Scripture and in 
believing mind to be distinguished, 
112 sq. ; organization of, as science, 


Doctrinal statements, human, how aris- 
ing, 125 sq. See Development. 

Dominicans, 301. 

Elements, secondary, in creeds and 
confessions, 261 sq. 

Elements 'of this world,' how used in 
Old Testament, 45, 89. 

Elementary conceptions in early Chris- 
tian Church, 190. 

Epistles, 86 ; occasional character of, 


Erasmus, 295. 

Ewald, Dr. H., 312, 315. 

Extent of confessions in relation to re- 
vision, 278. 

Faith, continuity and unity of, 7, 71 ; 
objection to development drawn from, 
207 ; of Christian Church, in collision 
with pre-existing forms of opinion, 
208 ; in collision with heresies, 211. 

Fathers, doctrinal activity, 7 ; on justi- 
fication, 387. 

Formula Consensus Helvetici, 402. 

Formularies, alleged existence of, in 
apostolic Church, 357. 

French Protestant Church and revision, 

Fundamentals, 256, 281, 394. 

Geneva, relaxation of Church stan- 
dards, 402. 

Gnostics, 343, 348, 360. 

God, manifestation of, vitalizing element 
in Old Testament history, 37 sq., 49, 



65, 66 ; representation of, in Old Tes- 
tament, 333. 

Goode, Dr., Divine Rule, 383. 

Gospels, 84. 

Gospel, Old Testament manifestation 
of, 47. 

Hawkins, Dr., 35S. 

Heidegger, 403. 

Heresy, existence of, relation to creeds, 

Historical element in Scripture, 35 sq., 

80 sq. ; how related to doctrinal, 81, 

Hope of deliverance in Old Testament, 

Hypenus, A., 332. 

Ignatius, 361. 

Ignorance, consciousness of, effect due 

to it, 165, 173. 
Inferential reasoning in tlieolog}', 161. 
Inherited creeds, 271. 
Inspiration, 309, 355, 
Irenseus, 8, 291. 

Jansenists, 301, 302. 
Justification, 386. 

Kingdom in Israel, its place and office, 

Knowledge, relative, 155 ; limits of, 
153, 160, 164, 173 ; as God's and as 
ours, mediated by Christ, 156. 

Language, freedom of scriptural use 
of, 97- 

Law of Moses, 55; changes accompany- 
ing its introduction, 340. 

Lessing, 305. 

Liberty of Church, as ground of right to 
form creeds, 252. 

Limits of our faculties, 155 ; of our 
knowledge, 153, 160, 164, 173. 

Lutheran creeds, 402. 

Magdeburg Centuriators, 374. 

Members of Church, creeds in reference 
to, 247, 253, 267. 

Messianic prophecy, 63, 343. 

Method of revelation, historical, 35 sq., 
80, 129 ; adapted to man, fallen 
and unfallen, 40. 

Mind, believing, how related to doc- 
trine. See Lecture IV. passim, ind 
Contents, p. xi. 

Miraculous in Scripture, 40, 315. 

Mohler, Dr. J. A., 18, 296. 

Molinists, 301. 

Monothelites, 366. 

Morals in Scripture connected with his- 
tory, 354. 

Mosaic legislation, 55. 
Mosheim, 380. 

Natural Religion in relation to the 

world, 37. 
Neander, 305. 
Neufchatel, Church of, 393. 
New Testament. See Lecture III. 

passim, and Contents, p. x. 
Newman, Dr. J. H., 18, 177, 296, 298, 

375, 382. 
New Testament, view of modem critical 

school, 351. 
New Thomists, 301. 
Nicene Creed, 243. 

Objections to creeds, 248, 255. 

Oehler, G. F., 337. 

Office-bearers, application of creeds to, 
247, 253 ; different classes of, in re- 
lation to creeds, 282. 

Old Testament — see Lecture II. passivi, 
and Contents, p. ix ; believers under, 
their attainments, 34 ; contrast with 
New Testament, 76 sq. ; progress of 
Church's thoughts about, 229 ; view 
of its origin according to some critical 
schools, 310 ; view of early Church 
regarding, 343. 

Open questions inrelation to creeds, 261. 

Original righteousness, 327 sq. 

Ostervald, 405. 

Owen, John, 299. 

Past, proper attitude towards, 23 1 . 

Perrone, Professor J., 298. 

Petavius, 17, 295. 

Practice, Christian, relation to doctrine, 

» 102, 131. 

Principles, explicit revelation of, charac- 
teristic of New Testament, 79, 87. 

Prophetic ministry under Old Testa- 
ment, 62. 

Protestant conception of history of doc- 
trine, 13, 178; dogmatists, 21; or- 
thodoxies, 21 ; view of creeds, 239. 

Protevangelion, 335. 

Psalms, 64, 346. 

Pseudonymous writing, difficulties in 
the way of assuming it in New Testa- 
ment, 354. 

Questions rise successively, 215. 

Rationalists, their theory of develop- 
ment, 176. 

Reformation confessions, 245, 392. 

Reformation, a doctrinal development, 
222, 386; theology, 11. 

Resource, sense of, in Church, 198. 

Revelation, course of it, how far com- 
pletely recorded, 42, 331. 



Revision, liability of creeds to, 274, 276, 
397 ; difficulties of, 275 ; in relation 
to extent of confessions, 278. 

Romish conception of development, 
177 ; view of creeds, 239. 


Schoolmen, 9, 369. 

Schroder, 298. 

Scottish Confession, 397. 

Scotus, Duns, 335. 

Scripture, relation of development to, 
195, 223 ; rule and guide of develop- 
ment, 217; structure of, renders de- 
velopment possible, 201 ; alleged 
tendency of creeds to limit influence 
of, 254 ; adaptation to successive 
stages of human mind, 350. 

Semi-Pelagianism in Church of Rome, 

Semler, 304. 
Sin, one great theme of Old Testament, 

43,. 334- . 
Starting-point of development, 183. 

System in theology, not a powerful 
influence at first, 213 ; examples of 
influence, 382 ; its place, 169, 367 ; 
its dangers, 371. 

Terms and meaning, relation between, 

112 sq., 164. 
Tertullian, 8, 293, 395. 
Tholuck, 295. 

Topics of the course stated, 31. 
Tradition, 1 5, 178, 296. 
Trent, Council of, 302. 
Trinity, doctrine of, 171. 
Tiibingen school, 343. 
Turretine, Francis, 403 ; J. A., 404. 

ViNCENTiUS of Lerius, 8. 

Warburton, Divme Legation, 314. 
Werenfels, S., 351, 405. 
Whately, Archbishop, 157, 358. 
Wordsworth, Dr. C, 379. 

Zurich, parties in, 404. 



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